The main photographs and text are by Wayne Miles,
an outstanding photographer from Darwin.
January - Wet Season on the Tiwi Islands
Known as "Barra" amongst the peoples of Arnhem land,
the monsoon slowly builds in strength over the Timor Sea, then rolls
as a dense blanket of black cloud to engulf the red cliffs of Merlville
Island. This signifies the start of "rainmaking'.
A welcome relief from fierece heat now floods the land, and in these
months of monsoon the sun might not be seen for weeks on end. Gale
force winds, teeming rain and tropical seas lash the entire northern
This is a time of renewal. The Tiwi are the traditional owners of
Bathurst and Melville Islands and have long performed special ceremonies
which are handed down from generation to generation. The Tiwi have
a tradition of chanting songs to ensure that their clans continue
to live in harmony with the land, its seasonal cycle and the associated
February - Monsoon in Kakadu National park
The relentless monsoon rains now fill the the Arnhem land plateau
and once again Kakadu National Park is flooded - the rivers and waterways
at a roar. Walls of water crash over the cliifs and escarpment 200
metres down through ancient sandstone valleys onto the rich floodplains
and billabongs of the Alligator River system.
A continuous low cloud from the northwest signifies to the Gagadju
clans of Kakadu that the wildlife of the lowland forests and floodplains
have moved up to higher ground. Up in the stone country where the
big waters form, the Mertens water monitor is now in his element catching
an abundance of fish.
Snakes are also on the prowl, hunting for fat frogs whose breeding
chorus dominates the night air. When the rains eventually do stop,
the sky fills with millions of insects, and birds feeding on this
abundance. The landscape is now a rich, vibrant green and the sheltering
Aboriginal people patiently await the harvest months ahead.
|The purple Native Grape is highly regarded by Aboriginal
people and is common in the open forests and woodlands of Kakadu.
The fruit is purple when ripe - it is eaten raw and the seeds
are discarded. The tuberous root of the plant is also eaten after
roasting, and the leaves are used in cooking, especially for wrapping
meats to which the leaves add a distinctive flavour.
Text and most photographs copyright Wayne Miles 1999