"In our traditional language group of my Grandfather it’s called 'Bagijial'.
Now Bagijial, the Turtle is quite interesting, and to give you an idea, we have the rainforest once again with the life force and remember, Europeans measure time linearly, we measure time circularly – its never-ending, so the Dreaming is our creation, it’s now and it’s the future, it’s a continuation, it’s a life force. So you have the life force of the rain forest. Here, once again, you have the women collecting the food source from the rainforest and when you see little hands within the painting structure, it’s a signature, it says: we belong to this land or we belong to this place, we did not understand the European ‘ownership’ of land because the land owned us and we belonged to it so hands say: we belong to this place. Once again, you come down to the sand along the river bank and you know its freshwater again because what do you have? You have the fresh water turtle. The freshwater turtle has little webbed feet with claws where the sea turtle has flippers facing backwards. So the freshwater turtle lives in the area here in the area of the freshwater in the rainforest.
That freshwater turtle, my Grandfather’s people taught me not to steal because originally, Bagijial was a young warrior not fully initiated so he could not take part in certain ceremonies, but he always desired things with his eyes.
In our culture we are supposed to share things within our family group and not desire things from other people, to own something to amass things for yourself – we don’t do that. Young Bagijial, not fully initiated always desired the two ceremonial shields and he wanted to partake and use them and keep them for himself – but the law – no!
One day the elders and the warriors were away hunting and Bagijial was there in the area and seeing the shields, his desire became so great that he couldn’t resist so he grabbed the two shields and ran from the camp. He knew the punishment; he could be speared and put to death. He came to the river and he dived in and started to swim away to get away from the area but to keep the shields. The warriors returned and the elders realised straight away that the two ceremonial shields were gone so they rushed up and looked at the ground, you see our people are trackers and they saw the footprints and they said ‘that’s Bagijial’, you see we can track so many different things in different ways.
So they followed the tracks down to the river and in the distance there was Bagijial swimming with the shields, The warriors sang out to him and he didn’t take any notice, just kept on swimming, so they put their spears in their woomeras and started to throw the spears up in the air to come down on Bagijial.
What did Bagijial do? He took a deep breath and he dived down deep under the water to get away from the power of those spears, but not understanding the full power of those ceremonial shields because he was not fully initiated, he had to return to breathe air and as he came back up, those shields solidified – one on his back – and one on his front because that’s where he put them to protect himself from the spears but now they became a part of him and that’s how Bagijial the turtle came to be.
Now when children see Bagijial in the water, the first thing they see is his little head come up, he’s looking for the warriors. His punishment is that he can no longer live on land but he understands what he’s lost because he can walk on the land from one billabong to the next billabong but he can’t stay there because he’s given up that right for stealing so when children see Bagijial they know they should not steal because look at what happened to Bagijial."
- Uncle Colin Jones
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Canvas Prints- Available in three sizes, artwork is commercially reproduced on a cotton-blend (non-archival) quality canvas using latex inks.
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