We write from an ontological premise that there are other ways to know and understand the “archaeological record” and “rock art”, that are devoid of Western ontology, and have been for many millennia. In this paper, we consider one specific Indigenous place and its associated visual elements, what might be commonly referred to as “rock art”. This place, Nalangkalurru, is replete with meaning, grounded in a well-founded and understood logic and reason. Nalangkalurru belongs to the Yanyuwa people of the southwest Gulf of Carpentaria region, northern Australia. By adopting methodological openness, we take a journey of steadied non-distraction oriented towards the Yanyuwa ontology that is in place. When viewing the visual elements of Nalangkalurru, which include Ancestral Being that are visually present on the cave’s large rock surface, Yanyuwa have resolutely declared that this “is not a painting”. In this paper, we explore what this comment means and expand the discussion to consider the nature of rock art research, when “rock art” is not “rock art”. These insights inspire a reflective discussion on the ways in which Yanyuwa, and more broadly, Indigenous ontologies, unsettle and aid the ontological turn.
- Yanyuwa Law
- Ontological Self-Determination