This image is based on a Gwion Gwion figure in a rock shelter in the west Kimberley of northern Western Australia, on country of the Ngarinyin people. The image is used with the permission of the traditional owners.
This ancient rock art image has two names or forms according to the Ngarinyin lawmen in whose country they abound.
"Gwion Gwion started up Stone Age. He made those paintings when he was a man. Before he was a bird. He made that gimbu - stone point, and tomahawk. Cracked open that rock, made spear and gimbu. Started up the Law from this time. Made knife. That's how they get 'im out of that string (vein), that blood, initiation. Use that gimbu to get out that blood. Those Djinarrgi Djinarrgi dancing together, in a row, a circle, ceremony. That's why ceremony keeps going today, from those images. The Gwion Gwion bird has a long nose. It's hard to find him because he walks around at night. We know how to find him. I'm Gwion Gwion Man" (David Mowaljarlai (d.1997) in conversation with Paddy Neowarra, Paddy Wamma and Laurie Cowanulli (d. 2000)
Gwion Gwion is the name of a long-beaked bird which pecks at the rock face to catch insects, and pecks into tissue, sometimes drawing blood. In Ngarinyin cosmology the Gwion Gwion started out as a spirit-man. He cracked open rocks to reveal the stone tools locked inside, the gimbu (knife), spear point and axe. The gimbu was then able to be used for initiation, and with the other stone tool technology, for hunting and gathering.
As 'spirit-man', Gwion Gwion is also known as 'Djinarrgi Djinarrgi', or 'Messenger'. When in the presence of the Djinarrgi, people have to be very quiet and reverent. In some images Djinarrgi Djinarrgi appear to be dancing in circles, and in lines, often passing objects from one to the other. In this form they represent the gift of ceremony, and the sharing system that ceremony celebrates. To this day, Ngarinyin men dress in the same way as the Djinarrgi, for ceremony and dance.