Wanjina Beings – among the most distinctive of all the Aboriginal Ancestral Beings depicted in Australian rock art – have been a topic of conjecture among Western scholars since their discovery by the explorer George Grey in the northwest Kimberley Region of Australia, in 1838. Their origins have at various times been ascribed to travellers from other continents and even extraterrestrial sources.
This essay presents a brief history of past research into the Wanjina cult of the Kimberley: and examines some of the core mythology that embraces the country of the Wanjina and which links people, from the coasts lapping the Timor Sea, to the fastness of the Kimberley Plateau.
Drawing together a range of ethnographic data this essay shows that the Wanjinas have played an integral role in underpinning the identity of the Worrorra, Wunambal and Ngarinyin peoples. This cultural connection stretches back for many millenia and continues today, through both oral traditions and the visual arts, playing a major role in defining the bond that holds these three groups of Indigenous Australians together.