The Djomi child spirits live in a freshwater spring near the sea at Maningrida in remote Arnhem Land. The women elders call to them, and in response the Djomi spirits sound like babies crying.

“The rain, the lightning, they’re crying, we go and call out,” says Lena Djábbiba, who is djunggay or caretaker of the spring. She is sitting on the brown earth for this Limelightinterview via Zoom next to the traditional owner Joy Garlbin, who is also a fabric and carving artist.

Traditional owner Joy Garlbin, left, singer-songwriter Rachel Djibbama Thomas of Ripple Effect Band and cultural manager Lena Djábbiba at Maningrida, Arnhem Land. Photo credit Jodie Kell.

Djábbiba recalls that in 2006, Cyclone Monica struck here, 500 kilometres east of Perth: “I was at home, and I heard the cyclone. All the people, they went near the cliff there. They were asking, ‘Where is Lena? She can call Djomi, and they can...