Do You Believe In Mermaids 45.5cm x 35.5cm Original Oil on Board by Max Mannix
Camped by a billabong in outback Queensland. Billabong is an Australian term for an oxbow lake, an isolated crescentic pond left behind after a river loop is cut off when the river channel changes course. Billabongs are usually formed when the path of a creek or river changes due to bank erosion, leaving the former channel deprived of further inflow and becoming a dead-end gully holding only residual water that has not yet drained or evaporated. As a result of the arid climate of many parts of Australia, these “dead rivers” often fill with water seasonally but can be dry for a greater part of the year.
The word is most likely derived from the Wiradjuri term bilabaŋ, which means “a watercourse that runs only after rain”. It is derived from bila, meaning “river”, It may have been combined with bong or bung, meaning “dead”.
Billabongs are significant because they do not have outflow and can hold water longer than sections of rivers especially during drier season, thus serving important ecological functions as waterholes and habitats for semiaquatic animals such as frogs. In the older days, these were important landmarks for people to identify and many billabongs were namesaked by the local areas.
Mermaids — those half-human, half-fish sirens of the sea — are legendary sea creatures chronicled in maritime cultures since time immemorial. The ancient Greek epic poet Homer wrote of them in The Odyssey. In the ancient Far East, mermaids were the wives of powerful sea-dragons, and served as trusted messengers between their spouses and the emperors on land. The aboriginal people of Australia call mermaids yawkyawks – a name that may refer to their mesmerizing songs.
The belief in mermaids may have arisen at the very dawn of our species. Magical female figures first appear in cave paintings in the late Paleolithic (Stone Age) period some 30,000 years ago, when modern humans gained dominion over the land and, presumably, began to sail the seas. The vastness and solitude of the outback is something you can immerse yourself in. If you were to travel from Sydney in a north westerly direction to the back of Bourke then your trek will take you across numerous streams flowing west into the Murray Darling Basin.
Max was born in Nyah-West Victoria near Swan Hill on the mighty Murray River in 1939. Max left home at the age of 16 to venture north and spent 20 years in the Australian working in mustering camps, shearing sheds, droving and fencing. From 1966 until1973 he managed a cattle station for Dalgety covering an area of 1300 sq. miles and carrying 8000 head of cattle and 300 working horses. This property was located near Thargomindah on the Bulloo River in the far south west of Queensland. Known as “Heart Break Corner” because of its lack of rain and long droughts.