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Namarrkon the Lightning Spirit

Namarden or Namarrkon are Eastern Kunwinjku names for the Lightning Spirit. This entity, which is responsible for lightning and thunder, is painted on both stone and bark in a form described as ‘like a grasshopper’. Namarrkon is said to have made Ngaldjurr – Leichardt’s or the spectacular grasshopper [Petasia ephippigera]. The species emerges, mates and is most active and visible in the season known as Kunemeleng, between October and December when there are intense electrical storms. Ngaldjurr is then said to be ‘looking for’ Namarrkon. Namarrkon makes lightning and thunder by striking out with kurlbburru – stone axes which protrude from its joints. Today, the Kuninjku will not leave axes lying out in the open during an electrical storm as the axes act as an attraction to the destructive force of Namarrkon. The lines emanating from Namarrkon’s head are said to be mardno or lightning bolts of power.

There is a dreaming site for the lightning spirit on the Liverpool River. The site, Kukkurrh, is a high undercut red gravel bank on a bend in the river. The rest of the country along the river is either flat grassy plains or thick mangrove forest. The red cliffs are in startling contrast to the rest of the landscape. The Kuninjku tell of a lightning man who grew angry and began making a terrifying and destructive storm. A lightning woman began to feel sorry for the human beings who were being killed by the storm. The man and woman stood as ‘cousin’ to each other in tribal relationship – this relationship between men and women is one of restraint and avoidance. When the lightning woman grabbed her cousin to calm him down he immediately became quiet and let people live. So it is today, say the Kuninjku, if a man is fighting and no one can calm him, he will become quiet if his cousin tries to restrain him

Name: Paul Nabulumo Namarinjmak

Language: Kuninjku

Community: Maningrida


Kuninjku artist Paul Nabulumo is a painter and sculptor. He is the son of acclaimed artist, Mick Kubarkku (1925 - 2008), who was known for his painting of dirdbim (moon, sun and stars) and the associated site on his Kulmarru clan estate. Nabulumo learned under his guidance, watching him paint on rock surfaces and bark paintings as a young man. The artist continues to paint the iconic imagery handed down from his father, including Ngalyod (Rainbow Serpent), mimih (rock country spirit), yawkyawk (female water spirits), Kubumi (waterholes) and djulng (Ancestral bones).  Nabulumo maintains strong connection to his heritage, living and working at Yikkarrakkal Outstation which sits adjacent to the dirdbim and kubumi djang (Ancestral) sites* . However, he has developed his own distinct aesthetic, characterised by striking combinations of fine and elegant rarrk, figurative elements and bold negative space. 

Nabulumo began exhibiting in 2000, participating in his first group show at Aboriginal Art & Pacific (Sydney).  His work was included in the historic exhibition <<rark>> at the Bargehouse in London in 2007. His work was also selected for the 23rd and 28th Telstra National & Torres Strait Islander Art Award Exhibitions. Nabulumo  has shown both locally and  internationally at highly regarded  commercial spaces such as Josh Lilley Fine Art (UK),  Gallery Gabrielle Pizzi (Melbourne), Annandale Galleries (Sydney), Paul Johnstone Gallery (Darwin), Outstation Gallery (Darwin), Art Kelch (Freiburg) and most recently Michael Reid (Sydney). The artist’s work can be found in various collection including that of the National Gallery of Australia and the Museum of Victoria.


* “Dirdbim literally means 'image of the moon'. The site is a large unusually round hole in a sandstone residual on the plain not far from the Mann River. The large hole is said to be the full moon created by ngalyod who pierced the rock in times of the 'Dreaming' and left the shape of the full moon. 

Kubumi is a sacred site on the Mann River consisting of a series of deep waterholes connected by underground tunnels. Ngalyod pierced the rock to create these waterholes and now lives in the rocky riverbed.


© the artist / art centre