Published by on

Mimih Spirit

Aboriginal people in the rocky environments of western and south-western Arnhem Land tell of the existence of tall slender spirits which they call Mimih. The name Mimih is well known throughout the top end of the Northern Territory. Aboriginal groups living in the rocky environments of western and southern Arnhem Land share mythology which relates to the beings known as Mimih. These groups include the Kunwok chain of languages, and also Rembarrnga, Dalabon and Djawoyn language groups. Other groups of people with familial and ceremonial links to rock country inhabitants are also familiar with the idea of the Mimih.

In recent years the Mimih has become a topic in the repertoires of some artists among the Kunibídji people, speakers of the Ndjébbana language and the traditional landowners of the Maningrida area. The people of western Arnhem Land believe that Mimih spirits live in a social organisation similar to Aboriginal people and that Mimih society existed before humans. Mimih are credited with instructing the first people with knowledge relating to survival in the rocky environment of the Arnhem Land plateau. Mimih are said to have taught the first humans how to hunt and butcher game and also how to dance, sing and paint. The song and dance style of western Arnhem Land Aboriginal people is still known today as Mimih style. This term is also used by Aboriginal people further to the east in Central Arnhem Land when describing the dance and song of their western neighbours.

Despite the usual descriptions of Mimih as being benign towards humans, sometimes however they are attributed with mischievous and dangerous qualities, capable of kidnapping and even killing humans. ‘Clever’ men, or Aboriginal men with supernatural powers, sometimes befriend the Mimih and are taught their songs and dances and shown their secret places. The Mimih are like people using the same kinship terms and speaking the same language as the local Aboriginal group. They live in families like humans and it is said that some of these Aboriginal men with mystical knowledge have spent time living with them in their camps.

Mimih are however, terribly thin, having necks so slender that a stiff breeze would be fatal. For this reason they emerge only on windless days and nights to hunt. As soon as a breeze develops, the Mimih are said to run back to their rocky caverns and disappear inside.

Name: Yvette Namunjdja

Language: Kuninjku

Community: Maningrida


© the artist / art centre