An illustration of the wandjina paintings

Little-known Curiosities about the Wandjina Cave Paintings

Wandjina is the supreme spirit being in the mythology of the Indigenous peoples of the Kimberley.


When it comes to ancient art, the Wandjina cave paintings in Northwestern Australia give “old school” a new meaning. These mysterious rock artworks, painted by the Indigenous peoples of the Kimberley region, can be traced back over 4,000 years. But it’s not their age that captivates tourists, scholars, and mystery enthusiasts alike; the paintings’ ethereal quality and tantalizing connection to the local myths and spirituality truly intrigue.

The Paintings That “Speak”!

A Living Legacy of the Dreamtime

Wandjina is the supreme spirit being in the mythology of the Indigenous peoples of the Kimberley. The paintings depict these spirits with halo-like shapes around their heads, large, dark eyes, and a conspicuous absence of a mouth.

The locals believe these spirits control the weather, and the lack of a mouth symbolizes their power to contain the rain. However, the absence of a mouth hasn’t kept these images from “speaking” to generations, narrating tales of creation, life, and spiritual connectivity. A wise man once said, “Actions speak louder than words,” but these Wandjina paintings might add, “So do mystical paintings without mouths!”

Repainting the Past – Literally!

One of the most remarkable aspects of these paintings is the tradition of retouching them. The Indigenous peoples regularly refresh the images, making them vibrant and alive across centuries. The tradition itself has become part of the lore, a living connection to the past, and an art maintenance plan that Picasso would envy.


Not Just a Pretty Picture: The Rules and Regulations

You might think rock painting is a free-for-all, but not with the Wandjina images. Specific customs and taboos surround these representations, with only certain individuals permitted to repaint or even approach them. It’s like an exclusive art club where membership spans generations.

The Wandjina Connection to Modern Culture

Modern Controversy and The Spirit of Protection

In a twist worthy of a modern drama, these ancient images have sparked contemporary debate. Unauthorized reproductions of Wandjina have ignited discussions about cultural appropriation and the importance of protecting Indigenous intellectual property. It’s the classic tale of old meets new, with a sprinkle of legal seasoning.

A Tourist’s Paradise and a Scholar’s Dream

For those seeking a journey off the beaten path (both metaphorically and literally), the Wandjina cave paintings offer a blend of history, spirituality, art, and the chance to ponder existential questions. Researchers, tourists, and those in-between find themselves mesmerized by the profound connection these images foster between the past and the present.

A Brush with the Mystical

The Wandjina cave paintings are more than just ancient artwork; they’re a bridge to understanding Australia’s Indigenous communities’ rich and diverse culture. A touch mysterious, a smidge whimsical, and entirely awe-inspiring, these paintings extend an invitation to explore, learn, and maybe even share a spiritual chuckle with the past.


In the words of one fictional art enthusiast: “If these walls could talk, they’d probably tell me to get my own halo!” But jokes aside, the Wandjina paintings are an authentic and treasured piece of human history, a testament to creativity, belief, and the timeless urge to leave our mark on the world. Even if it’s in a cave, a few millennia ago!

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Written by Justin Gurkinic

Hey, my name is Justin, and my friends call me Gurk. Why? Becuase of my last name. It sounds like a vegetable. Kind of. I love sleeping and writing. History is my thing.

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