Badger Bates was born on the Baaka (Darling River). His identity is deeply intwined with the river, and his practice as an artist, cultural heritage consultant and environmental activist incorporates the landforms, animals, plants, songs, and stories of Barkandji Country and the Baaka. As such, his work cannot be thought of alone as art. It requires an understanding of the importance of the river and efforts to protect it to his culture and sense of self.
The Ngatji (rainbow serpent) is associated with the creation of the Baaka and is a central motif in Bates’ world. Shimmering against the sandstone wall, it reminds people of the connection that Indigenous Australians have to this country, that non-Indigenous Australians belong to a landscape shaped by deep histories, and that any collective vision of the future must have Aboriginal people and the survival of their lands and culture at its centre.
'It is our belief that the Ngatji is still with us and it will make rain. The thunder is the Ngatji rumbling and growling and they blow the rainbow after rain because they can go back on their journeys then...They created all the water and country when they travelled around.'—Badger Bates