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Daiwul Barramundi Dreaming

Shirley Purdie

Barrumundi Dreaming, is a story that belongs to the people of the East Kimberley, near Warmun. June Peters, one of the contemporary artists from Warmun, relates the story as she depicts it in her painting:

“This painting shows a place not far from where Argyle Diamond Mine is now located in the East Kimberley.  It was here that the giant Barramundi, Daiwul, swam down Bow River, during the Narrangarni or Dreamtime Creation Era.

Three women were chasing Diawul. But she was a clever fish and jumped over the fish trap that the three women had set.  The three Dreamtime women were fishing by pushing a wall of spinifex down a creek. The barramundi got away and jumped right over the ranges north of the mine, but it lost some of its scales there and they became the diamonds. She also jumped over the hill located directly behind Bow River. The women went down and stood at the edge of the water at a place called Gawinyin, or Cattle Creek Rockhole, on the river south of the mine. They turned to stone and you can still see them standing near the waterhole today.

As Daiwul passed over the hill, her underbelly scraped the hill causing a crack to form in the hill, where the gap is shown in the painting.  The scales of her underbelly were scattered across the countryside and turned into diamonds.  In the early days, local aboriginal people used to call these clear milky stones ‘rain stones’, because they were often struck together and thrown into water ways and creeks to make big rains come.

The Dreamtime or ‘Ngarranggarni’ stories provide a strong belief system through which indigenous people understand their country and their relationship to it. The following Gidja stories – which have been passed down orally from generation to generation for thousands of years – describe the dreamtime origins of the Barramundi Gap, where the Argyle Diamond mine is located.”

Although the creation aspects of the story remain the same, there are slightly different versions, according to the particular artist. Another version of the story goes like this:

DaiwulNgarranggarni – Barramundi Dreaming story (Gidja language)

A barramundi is being chased by a group of ancestral women and swims into a cave near the area now known as Barramundi Gap. As she enters the cave the women prepare to catch her with nets made from rolled Spinifex grass (a traditional fishing method known as Kilkayi).

The barramundi realises she is trapped in the shallow, muddy water of the cave entrance and tries to escape by swimming to the other end, toward Nunbung (Wesley Springs).

But she cannot find a way out and returns to the entrance of the cave, where the women are waiting with their nets. She swims toward the women and jumps over them, shedding her scales as she jumps and leaving them behind in the shallow water. The scales become the diamonds of all colours that are found there today.

The barramundi then jumps through a gap in the rocks, landing in the deep, clean water of Kowinji (also spelled Gawinyin), or Cattle Creek rockhole on the Bow River. As the barramundi dives she turns into a white stone. Three of the old women who have chased the fish to Cattle Creek peer into the water to look for her and they too turn to stone, forever becoming a part of the landscape. Today there are three stone formations overlooking the creek.

According to the Gidja people, barramundi are not found in the area today because of the presence of the Ngarranggarni barramundi in this place.

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