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There are two Dreaming ladies at Bábbarra billabong – Djómi and Bábbarra. These two are sisters: one freshwater ‘mermaid’ and one saltwater one. Big long head, big stomach and very skinny legs that Bábbarra.

Their mother is the crocodile who lives in the Bábbarra billabong.

Both sisters will give people babies through the drinking water at Bábbarra. That’s why men stay away and Bábbarra is a sacred women’s site. Too strong our Dreaming – even men can get that baby in their tummies!

When it rains at Bábbarra, or when a cyclone comes, it’s because our Dreaming is too strong. There are lots of women spirits. When the storms come, the spirits go in the underground rivers and hide safely.

If you go fishing in our country, you have to be careful not to catch the Bábbarra and Djómi ‘mermaids’. Some people catch them thinking they are barramundi, but they are actually the ‘mermaid’ spirits. You will know, because they have white hair.

Lena Djabibba, djungkay (mother’s country and ceremonial manager of Bábbarra) and Joy Garlbin (landowner for Bábbarra)

Text courtesy of Bábbarra Women’s Centre copyright 2017

Name: Joy Garlbin

Language: Ndjébbana

Community: Maningrida


Joy Garlbin is a Kunibidji and Kuninjku artist whose work prodominately features the Djomi djang site. She started to make mimih spirit figures under the apprenticeship of Crusoe Kurddal in the 2000s.  Exhibiting since 2004, her work is also held in the Queensland Gallery of Art.

She is a Traditional Owner of the Maningrida township and been highly politically active in protecting her country.


© the artist / art centre