Coreen Reading

Kombali Kanduukandu Bangaa - Kombali Red Turtle - 2021

90 x 60 cm

Acrylic on Belgian linen


"In 1918, an evil man by the name of John Mackenzie, along with a group of other European men, attempted systematic genocide on Kaiadilt people. The Europeans had settled on Kaiadilt land, Sweers Island, building a small township called Carnarvon. One day in 1918, Mackenzie and his group landed on Bentinck Island, and with their horses, they drove our people into the sea, forcibly drowning them, shooting them at sight, and kidnapping our young women. Our Elders recount children, pregnant women and babies were not even spared, drowning at sea, if they were not shot, tortured, raped or killed by these savages. Mackenzie then built a hut on Bentinck Island, on Kombali, where he continued to reign terror on our people. This area has a river, often called Mackenzie, but known to us as Kombali; it is said that Mackenzie had a small daughter with bright red hair, who drowned in these waters. To this day, our people believe that this little girl turned into a small, red bangaa (turtle) and continues to haunt the area. This little bangaa will appear to young men, enticing them to take a closer look into the water.  Those who have seen her, describe her as cute and coy, appearing to wink at them and gesture with her flipper. Kombali is a special and powerful place, not the kind of place that young men, or anyone should wander alone. This unique and beautiful little bangaa ngabaya (turtle spirit) reminds us of our past, how much our people have overcome, and the need to always be respectful of people and Country."