Craig Koometa / Freshwater crocodile 2001 / Carved milkwood with synthetic polymer paint / 23 x 125 x 23cm / Purchased 2002. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist

Craig Koometa
Freshwater crocodile 2001

Not Currently on Display

In the Wik–Mungkan culture, both the saltwater and freshwater crocodiles are highly respected creatures and the people believe that they would be personally affected if one were to be injured. The freshwater crocodile (Kenh) is harmless to humans and is considered a great delicacy, unlike the saltwater crocodile (Pikkuw), which is feared as a dangerous man-eating animal.

This work by Craig Koomeeta depicts an important story for the Wik–Mungkan people in which a saltwater crocodile wandered up the Kirke River to look for a wife. Women were swimming and gathering bush food at the lagoon at Kencherang. These women were freshwater crocodiles, although one of them went with the saltwater crocodile as his wife.

The freshwater crocodile came along and fought with the saltwater crocodile, biting his snout so that his nose became shorter than his tail. The saltwater crocodile retaliated, biting off the freshwater crocodile’s tail, shortening it. The saltwater crocodile’s cries were heard and he was rescued by other saltwater crocodiles who took him to the beach where they sang songs for his sickness. Here he made his ‘aw’ (clan’s totem centre).1


1 FD McCarthy, ‘The Dances of Aurukun’, Notes on the 1962 performance at Aurukun, February 1967, QAG artist’s file.

Craig Koomeeta was born in Cairns in 1977 and lives in Aurukun on western Cape York Peninsula. Koomeeta learnt his people’s traditional stories from his uncle, Roland Toikalkin, and he has been carving wooden forms since he was 14.

In 2001, Koomeeta became the first Aurukun artist to enter the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award; he was subsequently awarded the Wandjuk Marika Three-Dimensional Memorial Award for his sculpture Saltwater crocodile 2002, also in the Queensland Art Gallery’s Collection.

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