Art of Western Arnhem Land is unique in its figurative emphasis. Implanted on overhangs on the rocky escarpment are soaring images of X-ray animals, great ancestral beings and mimih spirits. The rich rock art tradition, in layers of incalculable antiquity, is a constant source of inspiration for Kunwinjku and Kuninjku artists whose dramatic style of X-ray images in negative space is found nowhere else in Aboriginal Australia.
Against a red-ochre field, the artist fixes living creatures in their most characteristic forms by an outline that identifies the species. Inside this schematic envelope, the artist writes the skeletal details, which structure the image and communicate different levels of meaning. Such anatomical images, complete with skeleton, vital organs and intestines, are termed mahh (food animals, meat). The patterning of animals with complex geometric cross-hatching, derived from ancestrally created designs painted on the bodies for Mardayin ceremonies, imbues such figures with semi-ritual status.
Bardkadubbu represents Kandakid, the male antilopine kangaroo (Macropus antilopinus), in profile, but with both ears and all its limbs represented, floating on a red-ochre ground as if on a cave wall. Kandakid is shown with modified X-ray features – heart, lungs, intestinal tract and backbone – which serve to structure the rarrk (cross-hatching). Kandakid is an important djang (ancestral) subject related to ceremony, as indicated by the bands of different coloured rarrk marked with dotted subdivisions.