Introducing our Nyoongar six seasons designs

Community City and Council
Published on: Friday, January 06, 2023

The City recently engaged Aboriginal graphic design agency, Norlap Creative, who worked in partnership with local artist, Nerolie Bynder, to create a suite of designs representing the Nyoongar Six Seasons.

About the Six Seasons

The different Noongar seasons are not defined by dates like a western calendar. Instead, the Nyoongar calendar reflects changes in the natural environment.

The changing weather patterns directly influenced the availability of food sources, which led to specific lifestyle patterns and cultural expressions. For example, the hotter days and cooler nights of Birak (the first summer) would see families travelling towards the coastal regions and camping, fishing and gathering foods, both saltwater and freshwater. 

The designs

A direct reflection of our unparalleled understanding of the environment, Nyoongar people live by these six distinct seasons:

Birak | First Summer
December - January | The season of the young

The hotter days and cooler nights of Birak would see families travelling towards the coastal regions and camping, fishing and gathering foods, both saltwater and freshwater. That’s why the Birak painting showcases a large meeting place symbol, with a family group gathered near the lakes catching fish.

Birak is hot and the red colour tone of the Birak painting expresses the heat. It’s the season where the young are being cared for, so birds are seen in the nest. The hot weather also brings out snakes from hibernation as they feed on frogs and reptiles.

Bunuru | Second summer
February - March | The season of adolescence

Bunuru is the hottest period of the year, with long days and short nights. The orange colour palate of Nerolie’s painting is capturing the essence of the glaring sunlight.

It’s the time when the animals are coming of age, leaving the shelter provided by parents and forging their own way in life. In the painting, we see a clutch of turtles making their way out into the world.

Djeran | Autumn
April - May | The season of adulthood

Djeran, represented by the colour green, sees the beginning of much cooler nights, dewy mornings and falling leaves. Flying ants and flowering banksias are all signs to the Nyoongar people that the cooler times are here and so Mia Mia (bark shelters) are kept in good condition.

Makuru | Winter
June - July | The season of fertility

Makuru is the coldest season with rain, strong winds, storms and long nights. The colour blue is associated with this season.

Food sources focus away from the sea, lakes and rivers to grazing animals, like Yonga (Kangaroo). A time of fertility, animals and birds start pairing up for breeding.

In the Makuru artwork, you can see the Derbal Yerrigan (Swan River) enlarges. This is a special spot near Guildford, where the water overflows in this season. The Wagyl (during its travels) rested there, in Weeip country.

At the time of colonial settlement, Weeip was a strong warrior, a custodian and leader of the Swan area, from the hills to Guildford. He is an important man in Noongar history because he communicated a better way for his people to be treated.

Djilba | First Spring
August - September | The season of conception

Djilba is expressed with pink colour and is cold, wet and windy. Yet many clear warm days are experienced too, and leads to an impending explosion of flowering colour. The flower stalks of the grass (Balga) trees begin to emerge along with all types of young wildflowers.

In Nerolie’s painting, the season of conception is clearly expressed by the symbols on the bellies of the spirit people.

Kambarang | Second Spring
October - November | The season of birth

Kambarang brings back longer and warmer days with less rain and abundant wildflowers. The colour yellow is the colour of Kambarang . The stalks of the Balga trees are now tall and proud, and the yellows of many of the acacias abound. The banksias and many other smaller flowering plants, like orchids and kangaroo paws, are out in abundance.

About Nerolie Bynder

Nerolie Bynder is a proud Badimia Nyoongar Yamatji woman, contemporary visual artist, mother and grandmother. Nerolie is very proud to express her connection to her country.

Nerolie has always been interested in art from a very young age. Influenced by her mother’s artistic outlook on life, her inspiration comes from the old people’s words, her life journeys, her family. She likes to paint for calm and healing, to keep happy and healthy.

Using bright colours and earthy tones, Nerolie has no boundaries on her art and tries new things in a contemporary style that carries a message of her ancient culture. Painting gives her strength and she finds it beautiful to create, and through that creation she finds her own happiness

About the designs

The six artworks by Nerolie tell the story of the Nyoongar six seasons through the use of colour and the inclusion of specific plants and animals on each canvas.

Importantly, Nerolie’s six individual paintings are all connected by the perennial flow of the Derbal Yerrigan (Swan River) which is a vital connector for all plants and animals, bringing life-giving nutrients and strength of spirit.

The long, thin shape of the river, flowing right through the middle of the entire 6 panelled story, visually suggests the forever influence of the great creator snake (or the spirit serpent), called the Wagyl.

During the Nyitting, the creation time, the Wagyl created everything we see and know around us, including the plants, animals, river, rocks, hills and the six changing seasons themselves.

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