David Daymirringu
Buwata (Australian bustard)
c. 1984

From Garanydjirrmurr they changed their direction and went westward through Guliny'barra, Burgumara and onto the plains. When they reached the plains they smelled something cooking way up in the north--at the Wessel Islands. That aroma they smelled was so enticing they decided to go there. Lungurrma the northeast wind was carrying the smell.

-- Gladys Getjpulu

The plains of the central Arnhem Land region are mostly coastal or swamp flood plains that are sometimes covered with water in the monsoon period. The soil is a marshy clay texture with a rich top cover of grass and rush that could not be more different from the sweeping man-made plains of wheat described by Dorothea McKellar in her famous poem "I Love a Sunburnt Country."

The Yirritja, one of the two Yolgnu moieties, have a creation story that recounts an uncontrollable fire that broke out on a ceremony ground and spread across the land, driving out animals such as bandicoots and other creatures. Today, in the dry season, the Yolngu set fire to the brown grassy plains that remain bare until it rains in November and December. For a long period the land has a scorched and devastated appearance, entirely the opposite of its prior fertile state. The exposed ground allows for easier hunting, both at the time of the burnoff, when goannas, snakes, wallabies, birds, and other animals flee the flames, and afterward, when their tracks can be easily seen and followed. Tony Djikulu's bark painting titled Bandicoot Fire Story (Wan'kurra) shows two marsupials escaping the fire by hiding in hollow logs.

In the monsoon period and in the months following, the flat land is soaked with water and cloaked in high grasses. This succulent vegetation provides food for large numbers of rats, mice, and bandicoots. These conditions entice high numbers of predators, chief among them the water python. Micky Wungulba's wood sculptures of water pythons are carved so that they reflect the sinuous movement of these snakes.