Acrylic on canvas
174 x 55 cm
My name is Chern’ee Sutton and I am a contemporary Indigenous artist from the Kalkadoon people from the Mount Isa area in Queensland. This is my interpretation and story of “Mankala” which means in the Kalkadoon language “Black Bream”.
Long, long ago there was terrible drought and many of the waterholes and rivers had dried up with only a few still having water in them. A young Kalkadoon warrior was out hunting one day and he came upon a nearly dried up waterhole, he knelt down to take a drink and quench his thirst when he heard Mankala talk to him. Mankala said “I am the last of my kind and if you drink from this waterhole there will not be enough water for me to survive and my kind will die out”.
The young warrior replied to Mankala “what would you have me do, I am thirsty and if I don’t drink then I too may die”. Mankala told the young warrior that she was pregnant and if he saved her life so she could give birth to her young and continue her kind then the Kalkadoon people would be given a special gift. The young warrior wanted to know what the special gift would be and Mankala replied “you must trust in me and put me and the water from this waterhole in your dilly bag then take me far across Kalkadoon country to the North where the water still flows and only then will I give you your gift”. The young warrior thought for a while and then decided to trust Mankala and gathered her and the water into his dilly bag and then made off to far away Kalkadoon country in the North where he knew the waterholes were very deep and still full of water. For many days the young warrior travelled and when he thought he could go on no further he said to Mankala “if I don’t drink soon I will surely die so then both of us will not survive”. Mankala agreed to trust the Kalkadoon warrior and told him if you put me upside down in the dilly bag then I will be further down in the water and you can then have a little drink but don’t drink too much. Upon hearing this the warrior did what he was told and had a small drink which was enough to keep him going. After several more days the Kalkadoon warrior finally reached a permanent waterhole but before putting Mankala into the water the young warrior said “we are here now so where is the gift you spoke of” and Mankala replied “I have trusted you from the first time I saw you and now you too must trust me, put me into the waterhole and then come back after the next big floods join all the waterholes and rivers and then I will give you your gift”. After many more months the rains and floods finally came and joined all the rivers and waterholes as one and the young Kalkadoon warrior once again travelled North to see Mankala. Upon arriving at the waterhole the young warrior said “Mankala I am here, you trusted in me and I have trusted in you where are you and where is my gift”. Mankala surfaced from the full waterhole and said to the young warrior “you have saved my kind and now with the new rains we are plenty again so here is your gift” Mankala then threw a small coloured rock at the young warrior which he caught.
The young warrior looked at the rock surprised and said “what sort of gift is this how is this special for the Kalkadoon people” and Mankala replied whenever you hold this rock under the surface of the water and sing “Watharranti, Munthingka” (Come out, Come this way) my brothers and sisters will sacrifice their lives for the Kalkadoon people and will float to the surface so you can have food and nourishment, but don’t be greedy only take what you need. The young warrior returned to his people and told them of their new gift and they have always only taken what they needed to survive. To this day Mankala swims in his river and waterholes until he sacrifices his life for the Kalkadoon people.
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