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Three Tribes, Dumbi & Ungud (barn owl & totem)

Shontae Charles


  • Year


  • Medium

    Acrylic on canvas

  • Size

    60 x 80cm

The three tribes are the Woddorddaa, Wunambal and Ngarinyin. The three tribes represent the Wandjina who made them what they are today. The three tribes are from the North Kimberley region of Western Australia. The area that makes up the three tribes starts from Oobagooma which is 150km north of the coast of Derby, east across towards inland to Iminji and all the way up to Kalumburru. The tribes have travelled, moved and lived together. They share similar stories, culture and language with different dialects. We still follow the law, culture and language of the land today carrying it on strong and sharing it. Dumbi is an owl who resides in Ngarinyin country. A boy and a girl teased Dumbi and plucked out his feathers. He then flew to the Wandjina who said he would create a large flood to punish the tribe from where the boy and girl came. At a place called Wanalirri, the Wandjina gathered a large flock of brolgas which stomped on a huge black soil plain to create quicksand. The flood came and drowned many people; those who tried to escape were lost in the quicksand. The boy and girl were safe because they were on high ground, they were taken there by a kangaroo, and they travelled on the kangaroo’s tail. A tata lizard called Gunarda warned the Wandjina that the boy and the girl had escaped. The rains and lightening started to chase the boy and girl and they ran to a hollowed out boab tree. Once they were in the tree, the Wandjina closed it up and they were lost forever. In another version of the story the boy and girl survive the flood and mate to produce a new tribe. The Ungud (totem) snake is the one that made the rivers and holds water. If they are disturbed, then they will kill whoever disturbs them.

Exhibition Artist Shontae Charles

  • Born

    2000, Derby

  • Lives & Works

    Mowanjum Community

Shontae Charles was born in Derby in the West Kimberley of Western Australia. She is a young Woddordda and Nykina woman who was grown-up by elder and lawman Donny ’ Yorna’ Woolagoodja and Mildred Mungulu, both renowned artists.

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