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Ngalyak and the Flood

Ngalyak and the Flood Poster

There is an old Nyikina man who sits under a tree carving wood with his old pocket knife.

As he carves he tells the story of Ngalyak or the Luma Lizard. He cracks jokes and laughs a lot. Next to him is his bag of tools and a collection of lizards that he has already made. As he talks, his lizards begin to take life of their own. And crawl out his bag.

He tells the story of the changing seasons and the flow of Mardoowarra the mighty Fitzroy River that for most of the year has been a dry hot river bed. When it floods it can be over 20kms wide in places.

He tells how a woman became a lizard or Ngalyak or Luma or bobtailed lizard.

They know the rain is coming because they can hear the thunder in the distance and see the big clouds filling the sky.

And the Green tree frogs have been calling the rain.

Once the rain begins the grass grows and all the creatures come to have a feast. The Frogs party all night long. The cicadas shed their skins and start their deafening harmonic buzz as they beat their body drums. The frilled neck lizard hunts them for lunch. He wears his mating colours on the chance that he will meet a nice lady while he is doing it.

The Flying foxes fight all day as they hang in the trees along the river until they take flight at sunset to feed on the ripening fruits of the bush trees.

The high pitched alarm of the mosquitoes can be heard as they look for fresh blood to suck.

The big old goannas (Perenties lizard) hunt the juicy bugs, the people hunt the big old goannas.

The Brolgas dance their courting dances on the floodplains.

The woman is about to have her babies and knows that the river will flood soon. She must not let her babies drown. She travels down the dry river bed. Very soon the rain fills the river and it starts to flood. She begins to swim. As her babies are born she carries them on her back across the country down the flooding river. (NB Blue Tongues give birth to live young)

With the flood waters came millions of incredibly beautiful microscopic creatures called diatoms. They do not exist if the water in which they live they is not healthy. They underpin all life on our planet.

The flood waters washed the mother away and she became a sand dune. Her children crawled up onto the rocky cliffs and waited for their mother to return. They have waited for so long that they have turned into stone. Another name for the Ngalyak is the Luma lizard. The little lizards still watch over a small town that has taken its name from them. It is called Looma.

Photos by Rachel Taylor and Eric Gallet.