Moment 4: collectors


rubbish treeheaps of junkAs I look around outside, from one rubbish heap to the next, it nowadays seems bizarre to me that the so-called ‘developed’ human species has a compulsion to collect material objects. And then, to sequence and sort them, arranging them in heaps like these, or on shelves, inside custom-built drawers and cupboards, or in albums or boxes. With time, the collections become the entire identity of the collector. In fact, the collectors think they are nobody without them. I too have stood in the ranks of these collectors, for most of my life as an anthropologist until recently.

This ‘dog-box’ I am presently standing in was once walled with stacks of meticulously ordered green notebooks, written up every day since my arrival. Then, there were wads of photographs, taken religiously, sorted into wallets and numbered to correspond to passages in the notebooks. Stacks of cassette cases containing taped conversations with ninija and her People, their counter numbers indexed with the main body of notes. All this data was rigorously cross-referenced and clinically collected. Any subjective observations were censored out to give clear insight, evidence and finally proof of the tribe’s ancient lives.


This collection would one day be presented to the intellectually curious, becoming the intellectual property of the ‘Foundation for Indigenous Peoples,’ known for short as FIP. It was this organisation which sent me to this Desert to make these studies. Yes, there is no doubt now that my own data had come to represent my entire identity too, and that without it I was nothing or nobody. My brief as a salaried anthropologist was to study in depth the “tolerance of pain assisted by magic and other non-chemical means” of these Desert People.


To explain further, there are no chemical medicines or mechanically assisted treatments out here in the Desert, so traditional folk medicines and cures are highly developed by aboriginals. But my research interest was how the aboriginals, indeed any ancient Peoples, use magic or shamanism (the communication between the spiritual and the human world performed by medicine man) to cure and deal with pain.

My subjects were:

  • a female aboriginal Traditional Landowner named ninija (mentioned above)
  • her granddaughter gina, and their People.

The location of my field work:

  • 1100 miles deep in the centre of Australia, reached by land-cruiser surfing the Desert, or ‘flying-doctor’ planes if the money was available.


Ninija calls land-cruisers, ‘white fella’s silver Goose,’ and aircraft, ‘white scratching Bird of the Sky.’ The Desert People have never known these modes of transport until very recently.

desert cruiser

Wisdom tip: Aboriginals are not collectors. They are momentarily attracted by unusual material objects, but soon they lose interest and discard them. That is the reason for large rubbish dumps scattered around settlements. Indigenous peoples living a traditional life, have very few possessions, which are usually handmade of natural materials. All man-made items, such as airplanes and road vehicles are slotted into creature categories, as that is all the desert people know.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s