Yawk Yawk (Freshwater Mermaid)

Yawk Yawk is the Kunwinjku term used for young women but also for special female water spirits that have fish tails. Sometimes they are described as ‘mermaids’ and are said to live in trees and in water in special places in western Arnhem Land. They are spirit guardians of a particular waterhole.

Yawk Yawk start out in a tadpole-like form and as they get older they grow fish tails. They spend most of their time in the water but when fully-grown are able to change their tails into legs and walk on land to forage for food.

They have Namarnkol (barramundi) as pets and Ngalyod (Rainbow Serpent) serves as their protector. At the end of the wet season Yawk Yawk change into dragonflies, which signifies to the Bininj (Aboriginal people) that the rains have finished.

110 × 58 cm | Acrylic on Bark | Cat. no: 5182-21

This artwork has been sold.