Ngalkunburriyaymi (mermaid) Modjarrkki (Freshwater crocodile) & Namurre Boko (two brothers – Jay Rostron by Jay Jurrupula Rostron

Ngalkunburriyaymi (mermaid) Modjarrkki (Freshwater crocodile) & Namurre Boko (two brothers – Jay Rostron

Kuninjku people call mermaids yawkyawk but in my language, Kune we call them Ngalkunburriyaymi (pronuced Ngaal gun borro yay mee). The Ngalkunburriyaymi depicted in my artworks is from a place called Marra-yii (sp?).  There are too many Ngalkunburriyaymi living at this place.  They are always there and have been there forever. We can go camping and fishing at this place.  Marar-yii is a place in the river. They are freshwater. They are Duwa moiety. Same as the freshwater crocodile. 

My mum told me her story.  Ngalkunburriyaymi gave her a baby.  Ngalkunburriyaymi came to her in a dream.  They gave her my brother. In my mother’s dream she went fishing Marra-yii and Ngalkunburriyaymi came to her to tell her she was having a baby.  She said to her I will give you a baby.  In a couple of months, you will be pregnant.

Ngalkunburriyaymi eat fish and waterlilies.

Owen Yalandja is my cousin from my father’s side and Lulu is my grandmother also from my father’s side. They are from different outstations, but we are family.  My Ngalkunburriyaymi story is connected to them but different.

I love my mother’s story and it is why I made a lino plate and I print it on different colour fabrics – silk, linen and cotton. I like using lots of different colours.  I come from a family who have made artwork on bark and hollow logs using ochre.  Black, yellow, red and white. But at Babbarra Designs we can use bright colours for our fabric.


Modjarrkki is the freshwater crocodile only eats little fish like barramundi and saratoga.  He doesn’t eat big things like kangaroo.

Namurre Boko (Two Brother’s Story)

‘Bini-murreko means two brothers – big brother and little brother.

Two brothers were really strong leaders and good hunters, sharing animals with different tribes.
With those different tribe there were jealousy going on.
Little brother went walkabout and heard the different tribe was talking about his tribe.
They said ngarribin manre djed-djedme bokko
Meaning: will make spear for them
Ngarrbin danj-bun, ngarrbinbun
Meaning: will spear them kill them
little brother turn around went back tell his brother
Namurre bokko kadi marne djed-djedme Karre wonens, kardi-djal danjbun
Meaning: they making spear for us, they gonna spear us
Couple of months they saw different tribe
They changed their attitude
They been bringing lots of animals to them and start asking for women
And that tribe realise that’s how those brothers died.
They kill them
This Why? They got jealous because two brothers was a good hunter.

This story written on the rock art and it stays forever.’

This story was transcribed by Jay Jurrupula Rostron. Her lino designs illustrate the different scenes in this ancestral story.  Jay is a meticulous artist with a fine lino carving technique and beautiful colour combinations that reflect the Arnhem Land environment and her homeland near Korlobididah.