Rainbow Men I. Artist: Abie Jangala

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The artist was, until his death, the most senior Warlpiri man for this Jukurrpa (Dreaming). The Rain story and that of the old women are inter-related and provide the scenario for many Yilpinji (love magic songs). Abie’s image shows body adornment designs used to represent Ngapa (water, rain). Pairs of parallel lines representing clouds surround two rainbows (ling wavy lines). Among their neighbours, the Kayetj people, these symbols represent the two Rainbow Men. Diane Bell, in her seminal book, Daughters of the Dreaming, explains that in the narrative the wise rain father, known as Junkaji, attempts to restrain his overly pretentious sons the Rainbow Men. The boys come in to conflict with their older brother, Lightning, while pursuing young girls to whom they are incestuously related. Rain’s wife, the mother of the boys, finally lures them from the dangers of their exploits by feigning illness. Their duty to their mother overwhelms them and they return at the insistence of their father, only to die. Important themes of father/son authority flouted and mother duty/devotion/destruction are all revealed through the recounting of this Dreaming. During ritual re-enactment, the Rainbow Men embody the alluring attributes that can make a woman leave her own country despite her fierce attachment to it and follow her man far away to his own land. In ceremonies such as these, men imitate the sparkling, bedazzling qualities of the Rainbow Men by wearing shiny belt buckles or carrying pieces of broken glass, which shimmer and reflect the sun. These are qualities that attract women during ceremony just as women cover themselves in red ochre rubbed into animal fat so they themselves glisten and radiate good health in order to attract a man.

This is one of 28 prints included in the exhibition Yilpinji, Love Magic & Ceremony, which toured throughout Australia and internationally. This is the first time in the history of Aboriginal printmaking a body of prints became available that focused on a unique aspect of Aboriginal culture.

Fifteen senior Aboriginal artists have each created a thematic work on Yilpinji, the love magic practised by the Warlpiri and Kukatja people of the central and western deserts of Australia.
This little-known aspect of Aboriginal culture is explored in this important body of etchings, screenprints and linocuts. 

This print and the other 27 showing in the exhibition are graphically illustrated with accompanying text in the book, Yilpinji Love Art & Ceremony, written by Christine Nicholls, senior lecturer, Flinders University

This is an original, limited-edition screenprint created by the artist on acetate sheets and printed by master printmaker by Basil Hall on Magnani Pescia archival paper.


  • Medium: embossed etching
  • Image size: 24cm x 64cm
  • Paper size: 56cm x 76cm
  • Edition size: 99

Abie Jangala was born in the bush in the vicinity of Thompson’s Rock about 350 kilometres south of Lajamanu. After the war, Jangala joined his family at Yuendemu, an Aboriginal reserve specifically created to accommodate the increasingly displaced Warlpiri population. Later, he was moved to a second Warlpiri settlement at Catfish, 600 kilometres to the north.

Despite these moves, at 16 years of age, Jangala returned to the land of his birth to undergo his traditional initiation. Abie Jangala lived at Lajamanu in the Northern Territory from the early 1950s and was a strong and highly respected elder of this Warlpiri community. He was a man of great ritual authority, ceremonial boss for water-rain-cloud and thunder Jukurrpa (Dreamings) centred on widely dispersed sites in the Tanami Desert. He said he painted the way his father told him to paint as “he comes to me in dreams”.

His work is noted for its striking dense white dotting over a base colour, and simple, bold linear designs symbolising the graphic quality of the desert. The elements of thunder, lightning and rain, which underpin the belief system of the nomadic Warlpiri people, resonate powerfully in a field of white dots.

Abie Jangala became a painter in 1983 and soon his work began to be exhibited in group shows in Australia, the USA and Europe. His work is represented in museum collections all over Australia and in a number of important international collections.    

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