Ninija’s story: Day 2; Moment 8 – Ginger’s Death

talk-talk-talk cloud

Gina comes again later to look for her grandmother, but can’t find her in all the ‘talk talk talk’, the staring and shouting at the white ghost. She shakes grandmother, but there are no eyes or ears for the Lands, for ‘Here’ or ‘Now,’ or for Gina, in Ninija. Earth has turned her back on Sun, making the casuarina first red, then orange, then ochre and finally black. This is Gina’s sign to run to her small tufted mound, climb up, and look out across the mulga bush and the Lands.

One day when she is great Landowner, she will know them so well. She opens her face to the last of the Sun, pushing her head back as far back as it will go. Then, she makes small howls, and her tears are quickly dried by the heat, which will continue on all through the night during the Dry season. She howls her moment’s missing of Ginger-father. This is allowed by the Laws during these days leading up to the Burial Ceremony by those closest to the deceased. Then she looks across at Ninija in Moon silhouette, still sorting feathers and jabbering at Lumaluma near the dog-box.

spirit late arrivingGina looks intently at their dog-box for a while. Inside they keep some of Lumaluma’s gifts: many heaps of forgotten dresses and shorts and shoes and hats, and outside even more. Their people are not grateful for these things. They are not gathered from the Lands or of the Lands. They do not fit into their dilly bags like all they need in the desert does. The people just wear them once, parade like white folk, then let them drop like a bone with all the meat chewed away.

Ninija still talks out loud, breaking the laws and is still lost to Gina. She has gone somewhere with Lumaluma in his thinking Lands.

‘There your people just run all the time. In and out buildings and shops with big glass windows. What they want from places? So many strangers. Ninija never see so many.’

She puts her fingers into her ears again to try to get rid of the sound.

‘I keep trying to blow those devil sounds you bring Ninija’s Lands out of my ears, or tickle them out with feather. But they still there, on and on.’

Her head drops lower and lower. She cries tears down into the Earth.

‘I see Ginger’s body in dead house in you city. Now it hang behind in old casuarina tree. He my body and my Lands. But what you done with him spirit Lumaluma? It late arriving here.’

MarluNinija still keeps her back to Ginger’s body as marlu, kangaroo, is taken down by the men to cook. Ginger’s body turns dark with the Sky higher up. Once again, she cannot look at the body, and she has lost contact with his spirit. Ninija is lost between the worlds of Sun and Moon, between white-fella and black fella, between her Lands and the city of white ghosts.

Her piles of feathers remain unsorted as she fends off bothersome white fella. But as she gets darker and darker, her black flesh merges into Earth, and Lumaluma, blind white ghost, loses his scent of her. Black night is the time of black people, the time of feeling and knowing, of hunting and bathing under the Moon.

Ninija tries to explain to Lumaluma that her people value the bones of the dead, some more than others. They believe that they have magic qualities, when they are naturally cleaned of flesh by the Sun. Soon, marlu’s bones will be laid out in the centre of the Burial Ground in a special configuration known only to the elders and used at the Djang. Then, Ginger’s bones, cleaned in the same way, will be placed in the ceremonial coffin, a strong squat box in which the skeleton will be propped up, knees to chin.bones

After the cremation, his breastbone, thigh and thumb bones will be separated away from the skeleton and placed in a specially crafted small bone coffin. It has already been hollowed out from sacred mulga and decorated with emu markings by the bijada men, Ginger’s brothers. After the Djang, the bones will become the blessed possession of Ninija, who will carry them with her wherever she goes. After Ninija moves on her way, they will become Gina’s most prized possession, and so on, eternally handed down the line.

‘Bones. Death. Birth. Hot bones. They not think like you Lumaluma. Them spirit gone long ago. Cold bones lying under Moon like sea-shells. Lumaluma. You not understand. You never understand.’

She glares at him.

‘Why you smiling my angry words? You like Ninija shout and scream? Wah!’

hoarderSun has truly disappeared now, and the dark desert and twinkling panorama of stars has sent Lumaluma to his hollow up on Ninija Rock. He searches frantically for his torch because he is terrified of the dark, and rushes to open another bottle of grog from his huge supply stashed away there. Ninija is black, and white-fella ‘smooth’ and ‘straight’ can no longer push itself inside her. Her voice whispers out Ginger’s story for Gina into its desert home while white-fella quaffs and snores, and dreams a hoarder’s dream.

Story will keep Ninija connected to Earth and the Lands so that white-fella cannot interrupt her anymore for now. This will give her the strength to make paint for Ginger and to climb up high into the tree on to his platform. She must paint his emu clan lines tonight before the work of Sun and jabaroo gets too far. In this heat, flesh shrinks away fast to feed the scavengers and to clean the sacred bones to perfection.

yellow telephone box


Ninija’s story of Ginger-father for Gina

Once there was a mother who had a baby boy called bijada, Emu child. It was only later when he grew and sprouted hair that he took the name ‘Ginger’ because of his crinkly ginger-coloured hair. He was almost too big to be kept in her dilly bag like all the other children, his long legs with their bulging knees sticking out such a long way. As he grew, he loved to spend time with the emus, running after them and copying their long legs. Bijada and his mother moved around the Lands following the ever-turning wheel of the seasons and the migration of the emus from best spot to best spot.

hatching emu eggsThey were busy most of the time overseeing the laying and hatching of eggs, the building of nests, the perishing and culling of birds at the end of their physical lives. There were many duties as caretakers of Ginger son’s totem group. And the tall emus were never very far away from Ninija and her emu boy. They too followed the seasons of mother and as they moved through the desert, watching for their kisses, their tears, for their pranks and tiredness, and inhaling the delicious casuarina smoke from the Fires they always made.

Mother would get out her Fire sticks often and rub them, one on top of the other, until a spark jumped out, closely followed by swirling wisps of smoke. Then she would gradually feed the hungry spark with oh-so-dry grasses until it chuckled and chatted into flame. Ginger loved to watch. He giggled at the chatting and chuckling of the little flame, and wanted so much to make Fire himself one day soon.

Later, mother could make Fire burn all through the freezing nights by burying the hot red coals in deep narrow trenches made with her precious digging stick. After a time, the trenches became snug sandy beds into which they climbed together, pulling mother’s big roo coat over the top of them fire stickswhen the fierce winds blew, and leaving a tiny gap to breathe out of.

Mother would also make Fire when they came upon a patch of elderly mulga trees to warm the sand ready for toasting witchetty, large white wriggling grubs, which lived inside their roots. They both loved this delicacy. In the Wet, when the desert was flooded with tall waters, mother would dive down to the submerged mulga to bring up oysters from the base of this magical shrub. These were delicious opened in hot aromatic sand.

As Landowner, it was mother’s responsibility to make Fire to tell her people that she was visiting a dreaming site to check up on it. She must look after the Land sites of her people’s Dreaming Heroes. And again she would make Fire when she used her boomerang to kill one of the emus so that they could cook and feed. This was a time of great celebration.

Mother would only kill if an emu was sick or injured, or in some way different to the others so that it was pecked. Bijada squealed with joy when mother got her decorated small boomerang out of its roo pouch. She taught him to be as quiet as sleeping frog while she got into position ready to stun her prey on first throw.

boomerangsShe knew exactly how far away from the catch to squat, often, depending on the wind, throwing in the opposite direction from her prey. Once she had launched her hand-made boomerang, their black eyes would follow its outlandish route, transfixed by its spinning whirr. When the target bird had buckled at its knees, killed instantly and painlessly, bijada would ‘woop’ and ‘whirl’ himself around, pretending that he too was boomerang.

After they had feasted on their quickly roasted kill, leaving the remains for smaller creatures, Mother taught him the sacred emu dance. She painted his body with emu clan lines, and put on his headband and hair belt decorated with emu feathers she had collected. And the next day he would go out in the desert to practise the real dance with his large birds, laughing as he copied their high leg-lift and the sway of their long necks.

One day on Ninija Rock at the Great Python Waterhole, Mother and Ginger drank and washed some of the orange dust of the Lands from their faces in the cool green water known to everyone as the tears of Rainbow Python. Behind them one of the pairs of their emus were bending their blue necks and drinking too. They looked with their round hazel eyes into the deep rock-sided pool also, and made sipping sounds as they filled up the saucers of their beaks. Bijada loved to watch the cool tears on their long journey down their necks into their distant stomachs. They blinked as they drank and madeemus drinking gentle cooing sounds, bijada boy trying to do as they did.

It was then that they both heard a strange growling, not of dingo or camel, their eyes meeting to register it in the waterhole mirror. Mother darted to the edge of the rocks and looked down into the desert. There, low in the Sky she saw a small white bird about to land, and she instantly knew that the strange noise was coming from it. She knew also that it was white-fella’s bird which carried people up into the air. But Ginger had never seen it before, so he ran to her side to look too.

They watched the white bird put down its black feet to make a dust cloud and stop. Then, as bijada rubbed his eyes in disbelief, three white people got out of bird’s stomach. They had white legs and short trousers, and wore white shoes and socks with black seeing glass across their eyes. They all wore big bush hats and fly nets because of desert flies, which are always greedy for moisture from salty white-fella.

small white plane in desertMother and bijada watched the white-fellas for a long time as they restlessly got in and out of the white bird belly. They brought brightly coloured things and placed them down in the shade of the giant white wings. Then they put their heads back to drink from big bottles that they had plenty of. They made a lot of noise shouting and laughing, but then another new noise filled the desert. Mother noticed that their white feet were moving up and down. They were dancing and the black box was full of koroboree, ritual music.

Mother and bijada watched on and off from their high rocks, but mother did not make Fire for she did not want white-fella to come to take sacred Water from the secret hole. Bijada kept close, leaning against her hot black flesh as Sun slowly walked down, and old Moon was ripe like desert apple. The white people climbed back inside the white bird and made no new noises for a long time. As darkness thickened, mother took their few things into the opening of a cave at the back of the waterhole and wrapped bijada in her roo coat, singing his favourite emu song until he made sleep. Then she went outside to watch the white bird again.

White people were coming out of the white bird to build Fire, which they made quickly without Fire sticks. Then they brought more and more boxes out of bird and danced more quickly. They were laughing and occasionally tipping back heads to drink from the big bottles and shiny cans.

A little later the white man went into bird and brought out three big rolls, which he opened around Fire. White folk managed somehow to slide insidekoroborree this flat straight roll. Mother had seen them use these things before. They would climb inside so they were completely covered; so that they were under roof, and could never see the campfires in Sky, or feel the embrace of night against their skin. She found it hard to understand why white people hid away from the Great Mother.

Then she detected bijada gently whimpering, so she went to press herself against him at the mouth of cave. Much later, as mother slept with her deep breaths, still as a pelican resting her empty beak on a twig, bijada suddenly woke and crept out of the cave. He went to the edge of the waterhole to watch the white people. They were laughing and rolling around on their large bags, their sounds and their big Fire overwhelming the sleeping desert heart. He rubbed his huge black eyes and went closer, leaving mother sleep-dreaming some new stories.

Then the white man got up suddenly and went to white bird belly. He came back to the campfire slowly unrolling thin black eel, which kept its tail inside bird, and then he brought another box with handles. Soon there were colours and lightning flashes coming from the box. Blue. Green. Red. disco lightsOrange. They flashed on, one after the other. Bijada could see the colours on their faces and thought it must be a box full of rainbows.

Soon the white man lay down on the ground to watch the two white women who danced with each other. Bijada could see them well, the coloured lights shining full on them, the women smiling at each other, moving slowly inside their white-fella clothes. The one with yellow hair started to undo the buttons down the centre of her chest slowly, and then to open one side and to show a small white breast, not black melon like Mother’s. Then she showed the other. She was showing her breasts to the others. Sometimes they were green, or red; sometimes they were yellow. They changed. Bijada was fascinated, thinking they flashed as if the lightning men had placed their spiky fingers on them and filled them with lightning. As if the lightning men were trying to set them on Fire the way they did in the Lands in the Dry. He looked and looked, but he couldn’t be certain it was lightning men.

Next, one white woman moved her hips from side to side, and wriggled out of her shorts like yellow snake out of his skin. Soon she was naked. Bijada was not surprised to see her without clothes, for this was how he and his mother lived in the desert, except when it was too cold, or they dressed in ritual garments. But, he was entranced by her white skin, and how it was just like paper tree bark or ash. snake skin

White folk were really white ghosts just like mother always said. He looked down at his own black shiny skin and thought white skin was not real, that it was maybe like old snakeskin that dropped off when it was time to grow a new one. But how has white-fella got into white snake he wondered? He rubbed his tired eyes and was suddenly slightly afraid of the white ghosts, so went back to curl up against mother.

The next day the white people had gone when mother woke up. She was glad white-fella had packed up and flown back to white-fella Skies, so immediately made Fire next to let everyone know that she was there. Before bijada was awake she had found some green emu eggs down in the cleft of the rocks, and was preparing a big stone to cook them on. They were hard to hold even in mother’s ample hands because they were so big, and she had to work hard to break open their leathery shell with her small stone axe.

When at last she could open their lush contents on to the sizzling rock, she smiled a deep thank you to emu for leaving these eggs for them. It was the laying season so there were plenty of eggs every day or two, and the flock was thriving so well that some eggs could be spared for Mother and Ginger to eat.

Bijada came when he smelled the cooking, and as he ate his eggs covered in his favourite kangaroo grease, he told her about the visit of the lightning men. She listened to him, but was surprised that she had not heard their noisy light show, so doubted him. In the end, she told her bijada boy that white-fella had his own way of making lights and noise, and that it was different to the desert way. She thought nothing more of it, and they soon packed up their few belongings and moved with the emus across to the banks of the green river. Here the emus waded in the shallows catching water-Lightning Menboatmen skating on the surface, while mother with bijada slung across her broad back, climbed into the mangrove to feast on their ripe orange fruits.

This joyous natural way of life was mostly possible if the people listened to the wisdom and rhythms of their totem creatures. If the Lands and their creatures were happy and prospered, then so too would their human caretakers. Bijada boy had a natural way of listening to the huge birds and their needs. Across his back he carried an emu caller, a thick plaited-grass tube; he was talented at making the big booming call of the male to round them up if needed. Sometimes when he was weary and hot, he would walk close to their shaggy black-pointed plumage to keep cool under its parasol.

Of course there were bad times. Sometimes two stag emus fought each other and one was killed; or the smooth green eggs were opened by snake fangs, or sea-eagle beak. But accepting everything, whether bad or good, was part of the Great Mother’s plan which Mother and Ginger were both an important part of, like all the people. Bijada boy’s tears soon dried up when something sad had happened, and always led on to his wide-beak smile, because bad things and good things equally had a cause and a purpose if they listened to the Great Mother’s wisdom. They had a talent for letting wide smileeverything go and just existing.

The years passed and bijada grew and grew. He soon left Mother to join the men for initiation, and then one day he was presented with his churinga, his totem insignia, which meant he had become a man. It was made of shining grey stone with several holes in it around which the sacred painted circles of bijada, emu clan, were painted. Eventually, partly because he was of Ninija, but mostly because he was so gentle and wise, he became keeper of the bijada churinga storehouse which contained all the churingas of his country. He must look after them, and learn all the names of all his emu brothers

bandicootHe married bandicoot, desert rat, woman, 1500 miles away, walking there along the song-lines. He collected some songs to take to his new wife as a wedding gift. Mother did not see him for some years and had never met his wife, but she knew that they had a child, a girl-child. Then on one chosen day, Ninija was ready to welcome Ginger’s girl-child. She walked slowly with tired steps into the Lands and mother called her ‘little mother,’ for jirubuga, porcupine girl Gina, was to become the new Landowner when mother ended her physical journey. Mother must teach her little mother everything.

Soon mother also knew that bijada had left his new Lands; that he had gone to find a new Dreaming of the flashing pictures. He had left with a large bottle at his side, plenty of greenbacks in his blue jean’s pocket, and the tightened buckle of white man’s broad leather belt across his strong black abdomen. The elders rebuked him for not joining the rituals any longer, for not caring for the emus, and for not watching over the churinga store-house. He did not seem to care about his people, so the elders asked him to leave. They told him that he could not share their Dreaming any longer. They told him that he must find his own new Dreaming inchuringa Lumaluma’s city.

Mother cried. She talked to him with her deep voice across the air. She begged him not to leave, warning him that the Sky Heroes would not let him go on with his Sky journey if he turned his back on them. She advised him that white man also would not be able to help him, and that in time he would be trapped alone in Lumaluma’s city of empty white ghosts who stored fear in their blue eyes. That they would give him greenbacks he could turn into big bottles filled with white-fella’s poison which they could not live without; white fella nectar, which took away their ghost fear and helped them to fill up their empty spirits.

She warned him that white-fella had no Dreaming ancestors or Lands like theirs, and that instead they had ‘Easy’ and ‘Happy’ and ‘Sexy.’ Once his Spirit was deep inside that big bottle it would become a tiny insect slowly creeping down into a golden sea where it sipped and sucked on and on. It would soon become his very own secret golden Sea, but bijada, his emu soul, would be nowhere in sight. Then soon he would not want anything else except nectar, ‘Easy’ and ‘Happy’ and ‘Sexy’ nectar. He would become a bottle slave, and finally white-fella would kick his slow slave body out of town, and call him ‘smelly’, call him ‘dirty’, call him ‘savage! But savagethere were no ears or eyes in Ginger, bijada boy. He had already left the Lands.

Mother tried to remember and remember when Lumaluma could have seeped into him. Then one night, she suddenly remembered white bird landing in the desert beneath Ninija Rock to make koroboree, ritual music, and bijada’s stories of the visit of lightning men.

‘Those no lightening men! That Lumaluma! He seep into that boy with flashing pictures and women wriggling in tight-skin clothes, with bright colour lights like glow-worms and beetles, and music made inside white-fella’s machines. Now bijada has been called to make some new Dreaming in Lumaluma’s city on him terms, with his spirit inside that bottle which he suck at all the time.’

Mother remembered so well how her bijada boy had sucked at her, black on black.

‘Now he will suck on white mamma. Now he will cover up his beautiful black body with white-fella’s denim blue, cover his pink soles with white-fella’s white shoes, white socks. Now he will stick his rising Sun inside a thin white body, shedding shedding sunsinehis bijada sunshine on white woman every morning.’

Then one day, long after he had left the Lands along with all the other straightbacks, Mother’s spirit went to him in Lumaluma’s city. Her Mother Spirit raced through air to him along desert sand tracks and ditches. Hearts which do not know white-fella’s time and space, are rarely closed tightly by talk and words and pictures in the desert, are free hearts which can give their power to the bodies they live in, making any human feat possible.

Exactly as she had seen in visions, in Lumaluma’s city she found bijada in clothes: white-fella’s denim sleeves and legs, white-fella’s plastic on his feet, and white-fella’s black scraped leather cap on his head. He was inside, inside roof and wall and door, inside roofpressed tight into white-fella’s see-through cave. He had slid down the side of the tiny yellow telephone box enclosed on all sides by white-fella’s seeing stone ‘glass,’ on to white-fella’s floor, not Father Earth’s skin. No fragrant air of desert inside, only white-fella’s oozing shut-in air. His black skin was scuffed and sweaty, his long legs were folded beneath him, and his mouth was wide open and toothless.

Mother’s spirit slid imperceptibly into the cubicle close against her slumped emu boy. His beloved bottle was propped up against his thin chest, empty, and one of his black hands, carved with dried emu boy blood, lay along the inside ground. The other was wedged up close to his ear grasping Lumaluma’s black plastic telephone.

The dirtied panes of glass were smothered in white-fella’s talk-talk-talk contained his once-sturdy desert body like a transparent black telephone receivercoffin. As Mother held him, wanting to tear away the ripped, stained shirt of Lumaluma which closed him away like sand fall, she could hear the strange sounds like gurrwayi gurrwayi, the storm bird, coming out of the black telephone, on and on.

Bijada’s eyes were half-closed; his head held back waiting for his next mouthful of white-fella’s golden nectar, his ample lips dried and parted. His face was swollen, and his tongue filled up his mouth like giant eel in a basket trap. He did not make a sound in all his body. His stomach was bloated with white-fella ‘Easy-Happy-Sexy’, and his legs were thin like all their people who went to Lumaluma.

eel trapGinger son’s ears and heart were filled to the top with Lumaluma’s golden nectar so that he had not heard the glorious approach of death, and could not smile his widest of all smiles. Mother cried and worried that he would not be able to travel on. But she was a great Landowner, so she had special powers to lead him back to the Djang, and would use all her strength to make sure his spirit pushed off smoothly on its way.


Lumaluma’s meddling irritated her till she wriggled with his ant-sting.

‘Who inside that black telephone?’ she screamed.

But Lumaluma was ignoring the call.

Outside the yellow telephone box there was silence in white-fella’s empty ghost-land. She held the emu boy, and when everything empty ghost landwas ready, he rose and held out his thin pink palm to her. Mother gave him his churinga she had brought from the desert so that he could go on with his journey along the River of the Dead.

He beckoned to her and she followed him out into his country; out into the scratched Lands of Emu: out into the kingdom of the Four Suns. Then he let go of her hand and began his spirit’s journey along the River of Stars as it flows underground. There he would wait until Mother called him with her dancing and singing to see her painting of his Dreaming life. Then he would be ready to go first to Jundal Gianga, the keeper of all spirits, and then on to the Sky Lands.

sky lands

Ninija’s story: Day 2: Moment 7- Ginger’s Death

feathery spirit

In the middle of the second day of the twelve days leading up to the Djang, the greatest festival of all for their people. Gina runs towards Ninija bringing a bowl full of feathers. The hot breeze makes a feather cloud around her sprightly body.

The people collect feathers of every shape, size and colour for their rituals and to make their paint-brushes. Gina’s sudden appearance is a cue for Ninija to get on with the preparations for the great ceremony. With each of Gina’s steps, Lumaluma’s voice fades a little even though he questions on and on. She starts to worry that she has had no further indications of Ginger’s spirit approaching since the morning.

‘I need choose good feather to keep evil spirit, mokuy, away.’

emu man 1She looks behind her as she says these words in invisible Lumaluma’s direction. He has disappeared again. Ninija quickly smiles and returns to the thrill and magnificence of the moment, her moment with her Lands.

‘Gina, white-fella not compete with black. He not compete with black smiling man of emu.’

She is sitting flat on the Earth selecting the biggest and best emu feathers from a huge pile. When she has chosen she must give them to the emu men to put in Ginger’s headband and hair belt for his Burial. The Law says he must wear his emu regalia and be painted with his clan lines before his spirit finally leaves his body at the climax of the Djang.

Suddenly Ninija stops sorting! She straightens her bent back, and slowly looks over towards the top boughs of the casuarina tree for the first time. At last!

‘Today! It second day. I must go to Ginger son and paint his clan lines before Sun has worked too hard. Today, I must look at mypainting clan lines naked black boy!’

The old men had made the platform for Ginger before Ninija and Gina got back from the city with his body. They placed it high up in the top boughs nearest the Sun. When grandmother and granddaughter left their seats of the small plane and walked back to the women’s camp, they did not see the old men come to take Ginger’s body from the small plastic belly of white-fella flying bird. They did not see them pulling the plastic sack off his body. Nor did they hear the unzipping sounds, body bagwhich echoed out into the desert. They did not see them move his body like another kind of feather.

Among Ninija’s people, death is the business of the men, and birth of the women. Grandmother and granddaughter walked back that day to deep voices singing, to laughing, and to the welcome of dogs.

Ninija drops her head and goes back to running her finger and thumb first up in the natural direction the feathers are set along their quills, and then down. If they spring back into place from their unnatural position quickly, they are the best, so she puts them aside. But Lumaluma starts to ask his interminable questions again as she sorts. He entreats her to drink with him in his hollow, instead of ‘messing about with dirty feathers.’ Only Ninija can hear his voice, and only Ninija can attend to him. Gina watches on, no longer curious.feather cloud

‘Whether we in Lands, or in Great Ocean, or travelling on among the campfires in Sky, or grogging in you city Lumaluma, we “Here” and we “Now.” Our body it born. Our body it die. If we born emu, we run with emu. If we born koala, we climb with koala. If we born big lizard, we dig desert with lizard. If we born water lily, we float on the top of Wetlands like lily. But our spirit? It not born. It not die. It just! On and on. You can never destroy it, evil white-fella!’

Ninija slowly puts aside her feathers, although she has not made her final choice yet. She slaps her thighs and stands up sand stormsharply. She wedges the backs of her hands hard on her wide pelvis, sending a few nearby children running off in fright and scattering some of the feathers of her pile. Her tall figure bristles with desert energy, her voice a sandstorm blown up in Lumaluma’s face.

‘You stop laughing Lumaluma. You no respect for other people ways. Other people belief. We not laugh at you. We leave you alone!’

She steps forward a little and whispers bitterly, wagging her finger at thin air.

‘Why you keep bothering us white-fella?’songlines

Ninija has spent most of the second day standing at the dog-box, her thin arms holding her up. Sometimes she looks down at her Lands, sometimes she sobs, sometimes she stamps and shouts at Lumaluma. Behind her, higher in the casuarina, above marlu, kangaroo, dead Ginger lies. But she has been unable to look at him again. She searches for a reason not to look at him.

‘It Ninija duty as Landowner, but also as Mother. Ninija looked many people’s corpses up there high in the old tree. Ninija paint clan lines. Then, when time right, the bones are ready to put in bone coffin. Give signal to coffin men. Many many times.’

hollow log coffinHer tears and storms and stampings are all mixed up with shame and frustration. White-fella’s critical comments somehow are changing her natural ways into unnatural ones.

‘White-fella, he believe dead is dead. There nothing more. There only big sticky-stone high wall at the end of living. But how he live knowing that he running like crazy rat to big slap against wall?’

Lumaluma continually intimidates Ninija, but deep in her heart she knows that perhaps she would be the same if she had nothing but one short physical life.

‘We desert people so lucky – we not know time to count, and visible world only one bitzy part of the huge Sky world!’

She slaps her thigh as she often does when she realizes something deep!

‘No wonder Lumaluma need big bottle to take away pain and fear! No wonder he want everyone to be like him – they comfort each other. No wonder he want destroy “ancient” and “traditional” and replace them with “glamour” and “excitement,” coz he only one chance! No wonder he want to destroy our free life and use us like slave!’

Ninija excitedly understands. She grabs Gina and hugs her, whirling her around roughly.

‘Ninija and Ginger and Gina – we need know and understand this way of living. Now Ginger he really know, and soon Rainbow white lifeSerpent will make Dreaming story in the Lands about Lumaluma and his folk. Yes-oh-yes-oh-yes! We need taste this white life like new insect or berry so we can help him and his people shaking with scare!’

Gina blinks wide-eyed, but smiles and hugs her returned grandmother.

Ninija as keeper of the Lands may use all the resources and riches on the Earth’s skin to record desert life. She uses rock and sand and tree-bark and body for her painting canvas. No matter where she chooses to work there are countless other canvasses painted, carved and drawn by her people since the Great Mother first created the Lands. As she walks around her domain, she just-knows where the next site will be. Then she will pour her Spirit into that new site from rock paintingplentiful vessels.

When she paints she becomes the contours of the rocks themselves, the cases of each grain of sand. Dancing her feet here, larding her rich songs there, and stirring in her own rich spirit. She just-knows that all the materials she needs are available to her at any time.

When her canvas is ready, she will start to make her brushes or stone chisels or sand carvers. She will twine animal feathers and hairs together, shaping special sharp stones, making sand shifters from tree trunks and kangaroo thigh-bones. She will make paint from desert-fire white ash, black charcoal, ochre red Earth, and sienna yellow clay. She will bindmaking brushes them all together with fresh honey and blood from her own limbs.

Ninija already has many flat rocks out at Pelican Salt Pan for her Landowner paintings. Here she will paint of what happened to Ginger-son so that all the people, the Great Mother and the Sky Heroes, will know. She must complete his painting as a sign before his Spirit can completely find its way back from the city to the Burial Grounds.

aboriginalsWhen white-fella first came to Ninija’s Lands he tried to force her and her people to read the black lines of paper books, and to write his alphabet. The people called them ‘Stinging Ants.’ Some of them learned to read and write and went with Lumaluma inside his big doors and roofs and windows. But Ninija just-knew that reading and writing in white-fella’s style, white-fella ‘best,’ would take her on a long one-way journey to his white-fella Lands. She just-knew that his pen and blue and black bottle-ink, and his blue empty eye was just ‘talk-talk-talk’ on ‘flat’ and ‘straight.’pen and ink image

Ninija and her people just-knew that song and story and colour and shape were the real free desert way. Wordless. Strong. Living. Direct. Touched by all the activities of the Great Mother, not hidden away in books and draws and museums. But they were frightened. Many were injured or killed because they did not obey his commands.

Ninija grabs Gina’s hand and they walk away from the dog-box together. She speaks to her granddaughter inside.

‘Ninija not ready for ceremony because white-fella business! But little Gina she know everything. We not speak or drink Water until the twelfth day out of respect for him, my Ginger, bijada man.’

aboriginal child

NInija’s story: Day 2: Moment 6 – Ginger’s Death


desert sundownIt is Sundown of the second day since Ninija and Gina got back from the city with Ginger’s body. On the second day after death, after Sunset, the Law says that they must eat marlu, kangaroo. They will cut it carefully in a particular way, then lay the bones out ready for Ginger’s burial ceremony. Ginger’s Emu cousins Bandung and Jal went out to catch kangaroo with boomerangs. They are the only ones left who remember how to use them. The men cook kangaroo in her fur laid in a deep trench filled with red fire like glow-worms, packing her orifices with plugs of spinifex grass. This will keep her moist. She must cook from Sunup to Sundown. Then will the bones be ready. Marlu, kangaroo, hangs there in the old casuarina tree ready to be ready. But this ritual animal is not alone up in the boughs.

Lumaluma and Ninija are sheltering from the heat at the dog-box, Ninija standing outside, her back facing the casuarina. This is unusual in traditional life. She continues to answer Lumaluma’s endless questions fired from inside the fly screen casuarina treedoor.

He asks, ‘Why are they all staring up into that old tree? On and on. Haven’t they got anything better to do?’

jabaroos in the tree‘This the centre Lumaluma. Sky Heroes are at top of casuarina.’

She tries to teach him patiently about tribal ways. But he tuts and draws hard on his cigarette, its red end brightening in the windowless space.

‘How can you possibly believe in that rubbish? Look at all those filthy black birds hopping around up there! They’re no “heroes” are they? And higher?’

Ninija jams her fingers in her ears.

‘Don’t you say his name again! Don’t you dare!’

He changes the subject skillfully.

‘But why are those black birds waiting around?’

‘They jabaroos, sacred bird always protect Sky Heroes Lumaluma.’

‘I’d like to take my big rifle and shoot them down.’

He curls his lip, knowing how to irritate her.

‘You not! Lumaluma, you visitor here. You not bring more trouble here!’

wet season‘But what’s so special about this old tree. Please try to explain to me so I can understand.’

‘This tree with us always. It stands in the Wet rain and storm when lightning men come. It crack when no water in Lands. But always it there. It last forever.’

Lumaluma slaps his thigh and smirks, ‘No no! Not forever, you ignorant bitch! Everything dies. You. Me. Your precious Ginger. And your precious tree.’

Ninija stamps, and pulls at the porch.

‘You not say his name like that! You leave him. You leave my Lands.’

He begs, ‘Come on. Calm down. I’m asking you to tell me about this tree.’

So, she decides to take a risk and tell him the story.

‘When you white fella came to build settlement, you boss men try to cut tree down. It big black roots stop building they say. big tree cuttingThey bring magic saw growl like dingo, spark like Fire spirit. They tell me I only woman, so push me away when I try stop them. I go to sit close to tree and I stay. I say, cut me in half before I let you cut casuarina. They angry-angry. They start cut tree. Ninija close eyes and protect tree. They dingo machines not work. They check and try many times, but they not work. So they leave Ninija and tree in peace.’

Lumaluma is silent. She goes on nervous like tree frog.

‘Ninija heal wounds of tree with wax from bees. Casuarina people pile comfrey leaves around. It better soon. Lumaluma, without tree Ninija and the people we sick, maybe we die!’

Inside the dog-box it is silent, but then in white-fella tone he speaks.

‘But Ninija, your boomerang thugs kill that poor kangaroo just so you can get its bones for your crazy burial ceremony!’

bee waxNinija’s blood boils with his tricky mind.

‘Why you not respect our way? Why you even ask question?’

She turns away, still keeping her back to the tree. Again he placates her.

‘Come on. Come in here and have a little sip of my big old bottle. Forget the withered old tree. I’m here now instead.’Oceans between Dreams

His pale hand extends towards her out of the fly-screen door, coaxing her into his ‘Easy-Happy-Sexy’ Lands.

Ninija longs to tell him just how much her people are in love with death but she daren’t. How they are in love with always moving on to what comes next in the great plan, in love with travelling on in the eternal Sky. Each of them has a unique part to play, a particular mission to execute. They never worry about what might happen next, or has happened before. She knows civilized people see death as suffering and something to be afraid of. But to the desert peoples the moment of ‘death’ is the glorious culmination of their physical lives when their spirits are released.

They adore ‘death’ eternally, as if it is a physical presence like the spirit of Fire or Water. Instead of looking for the where-when-who-why-what-which of death, they just-know or hear its gentle approach. They are rarely shocked at its arrival. Then, when the Djang arrives and the whole tribe celebrates their release into the spirit world, total joy fills their spirit.

longing for death‘Black skin not wait like white-fella, tap foot, drum fingers, wish and long for somewhere else, sometime else, to be someone else. He happy where-when-who. We not always know what come next and what been before. But we not ask. We just-know.’

Ninija murmurs to Lumaluma, but he is not listening to her. She is white-fella worried. She cannot look at Ginger’s dead body, which lies high near the top of the tree. Why is she so afraid of this carcass prepared for the ceremonies by the emu men? So afraid of this black fruit which slipped out of her body to run with the emus – her boy, her dead Ginger.

Once she has looked at him, she knows that Ginger’s spirit will start to move on to the Land of the Dead. But no, she cannot look up at his bloated belly, and do her duty in painting the ochre lines of his emu clan. Perhaps she cannot look at Lumaluma’s dirty work.

watching over the deadShe has looked at many of her dead kinsfolk, watched them through long ceremonial nights, seen their flesh return to Earth like dead leaves or burned grass. Why is she now unable to look at part of her own flesh returning to Earth? She is shocked. She starts to count the possible reasons, to analyze and classify, just like white-fell.

‘Why do you people parade your dead?’broad-brillmed hat and fly net

Wearing his fly net and black board-brimmed hat, he steps out of the fly screen door. He comes closer to her, pointing a long white finger at her black chest. He takes another greedy sip from his bottle dangling from his other hand.

‘Decay disgusts me! Bury him now, can’t you. Put him in the Earth. Come on, I’ll help you get him down from the tree.’

LumaLuma pulls her arm, and Ninija pushes her pale heels into the red Land, refusing to shift. She closes her eyes, trying to hold tight to her place in ‘Now’ and ‘Here.’
Then he produces a shiny steel spade from under the black cloak. Then a white handkerchief to cover his nose and mouth against the stench of Ginger’s body. Ninija more adamantly turns her back on Ginger.

‘No LumaLuma. I strong woman. I not break our Law again, and again.’

LumaLuma chides her, waving his bottle in the air, and pointing up to the body.

’See the maggots gathering behind his eyes?’

He puts aside his spade, pulling down the bottom lids of his own eyes revealing their red rims.

bottle bottom’Smell him, roasting there under your precious Sun.’

Roughly, Lumaluma gives his big bottle to Ninija to hold while he inspects the ground for a good place to dig.
 She steps further away.

‘Leave him! Leave me!’

At the moment Ninija flatly refuses him, she looks down at his half-emptied bottle. She is just about to take a drink when something moves inside the bottle. She peers closely, wondering if it is Ginger’s Spirit still trapped inside. She says nothing, creeping away and walking behind the dog box. There, checking that no one is looking, she quickly turns the bottle upside down and bangs on its bottom. The remaining grog pours out, but Ginger is not there. Then she looks over to Pelican Salt Pan and can suddenly feel Ginger-son’s spirit coming. She sighs with relief, squeezes her eyes tightly together to encourage him closer, and Lumaluma and his bottle disappear. She hums-hums deep through her nose.

‘At last! Ninija find she Emu boy!’pelican salt pan

Ninija’s story: Day 1: Moment 5


Scan 16

‘What ‘Easy-Sexy-Happy?’

Gina holds tight to Ninija’s heart with little fingers. She imitates white-fella with more questions like his. Ninija is ashamed. She looks down. Shame is known in the Lands, but it is unusual.

‘He take me to him hollow on Ninija Rock. Give me his bottle to sip. Hold it to lips. He come close with blue dazzle eyes, with honey voice and talk. Then cover me with great black cloak, make me giggle. Everything “Easy.” Everything “Happy.” Everything Australian greenbacks“Sexy.” It “Easy-Happy-Sexy” fill with promises and kisses like chisels and white ghost skin, and pocket full greenbacks he peel to give me like desert artichoke leaves. Pay me for him pleasure of me. Him light like cloud or mist in winter.’

Ninija stops and gazes vacantly.

‘Go on! Go on!’

white fella landsGina is afraid she will disappear with him again.

‘He take me other Lands. White Lands of “Then” and “There,” of “Yet” and “Go,” of “Easy-Happy-Sexy.” I never there before. But this where Ginger go. So Ninija she must go to see. But white-fella in trouble. We wait new Dreaming stories for white- fella problems.’

Then Ninija smiles. She is taken with her talk back ‘there’ to Lumaluma. Her smile soon changes from wide to a tight frown. She is answering his questions again.

‘Yes Lumaluma you people choose. We not!’

Ninija talks out loud into the desert, breaking the sacred Mortuary Laws again. Now she and he are both strangers in ‘Here’ and ‘Now’. And Gina is sad too. ‘Sad’ is something new for her.

‘Why you choose my Ginger? Why? Choose. Make white-fella plan.’

Ninija’s anger flares up again. She must answer. She cannot run away from such important Land’s business. She calms down Land Lawsagain. But quickly she is angry and fast- talking. She is with white-fella and he lives by talk so Ninija talks. She breaks the Laws again because she calls the deceased Ginger by his name, which is forbidden. Lumaluma asks her to tell him what her son was like when he was in the Lands, asking a mother to remember her dead son in white-fella’s way. He shows no respect for the codes of her people.

Ninija steps towards a high blue rock nearby. Her hands are wedged on her pelvis edges.

‘He so happy in him Lands. Run with emu. He special to his people coz he big strong giant – fight with crocodile and wrestle with big stag emus – but he gentle. Him listen. Him listen good to all people and to the Lands. Him watch. Him know deep. He be great Landowner. Wise. Not too much clever. Not too little.’

She pauses and turns sharply.

‘This why you take him Lumaluma?’

bush firesHer mood changes dramatically once more. She marches closer to the big rock with its blue closed face and shouts like crazy fires.

‘You so bad-bad Lumaluma you need steal his good-good!’

She bangs her broad forehead hard with tight wrists. She cries tears of ‘sad’ and ‘angry’ like a mix of sea and river water. Gina is shocked by this rare display of emotion. She shouts herself inside whilst Ninija raves on.

‘What Ginger-father do now if he Gina? I want break the Law too with Ninija. Shout her back to our Lands like dogs gone wild? Push her in soak-away? Put dilly bag over her head to stop ears and eyes from Lumaluma? She stay with us then. Our people need her now. Now they wait for Ginger to come to say galiya, farewell. Prepare for big burial ceremony, for the Djang.’

water holeBut Gina is of Ginger, so like he would in this situation, she sits still and calm on the edge of King Waterhole. She goes on inside.

‘Gina know what Ninija say inside. Always. But when Lumaluma around she not know. She not know because Ninija know nothing but Lumaluma. She no listen to Gina, to elders, to no-one. But Ninija she know what Lands need. She just-know when Rainbow Serpent prepare to make new Dreaming there.’

Gina accepts, and stares deep down into the pale waters of the waterhole, talking more.

‘Ginger. Ginger. Ginger father.’
And more slowly,


Gina breaks the Laws too, Ninija’s Laws, copying her grandmother.

‘When I say you name my tongue can make picture of you. Ginger-father. Big man. Big emu smile. Ginger father. Quiet man. Eyes emu manalways wide and polished like walnut rubbed with grease. No-talk man. But how he dance. Long long legs. Long long arms like bat wings. Legs and arms they flap. Loose. On and on. And sing. Mable mother she say when he sing everything stop to listen. Big voice. Deep like didgeridoo. Like thunder. Like Humming-Bird wings, they flap so fast they still.’

‘Ginger-father. I know you. But I never see you. You gone away to city when I a bitsy. But I happy coz Mable mother tell me Gina quiet and strong like you. Maybe I see you at the Djang, you big ceremony, when you spirit leave on its travelling way.’

She pauses.

spell‘Wah! But what I just-know I not need see.’

Even at her young age Gina is wise. She knows that the spirit cannot be destroyed. She knows that the body is only a temporary container. She is still and quiet for a long time. The green-grey water laps in the sunshine, totally ‘Here’ and ‘Now’ in the Lands. Then, like Ninija, Gina is for a moment tempted away to white-fella’s ways.

‘Maybe one day, they tell me where you go and why you leave you people and you Lands?’

She splashes her legs using white-fella talk to find out what is happening in her mind. Questions. Questions. Curling and crawling like maggots. White-fella’s ways.

‘And me? Ninija say you Ginger-father left because you under Lumaluma’s spell. You helpless like beetle back. Not cos you not want see me.’

There is doubt in her voice; doubt, the opposite of just-knowing.

Her heart begins to close, briefly at first, and gradually for longer periods. She feels white-fella’s restlessness. She feels his flashing picturesaddiction to words and pictures. And to time – ‘Then,’ and place – ‘There.’ She too is teased away from her ‘Here’ and ‘Now.’ She tries to understand this spell of white ghost, and the way her father deserted the Lands. She is between Lands, off and on.

‘I try his name to make tongue picture. Lumaluma. Lumaluma. Nothing. No one. White mist swim and swirl. It get inside you eyes.’

She is curious about this white ghost that she cannot see or hear. She rubs her eyes, then shivers and splashes again.

‘Now I stay strong and quiet like Ginger-father to help Ninija.’

city mortuaryNinija and Gina had never been to Lumaluma’s city before. Then suddenly they were summoned to collect his dead body from the City Mortuary. Everything about the visit had been terrifying to them. The noises stopped them from listening in to the natural world. Neither could they listen inside themselves. Landowners become so still and silent that they can control their heartbeat and other organs. This way they can survive the unbearable heat, without food or water for long periods.

When Ninija described these gifts to Lumaluma he was scathing. But when she demonstrated, he shook her and asked her what waitingshe was waiting for? Lumaluma’s people cannot be still. Instead they move from one thing to the next, and in between, they wait.

Out here deep in the desert, it is the custom neither to mention the name of someone who dies, nor to talk about their physical lives once they are dead. There is no need, as the spirit exists for eternity. Their totem names are their eternal names. Lumaluma chooses to ignore this, and deliberately tempts both Ninija and Gina into sentimentalism about dead Ginger.

Everyone knows that Ginger had a strong watchful eye and a quiet joy. They said he was more like the Moon than the Sun. He like the moonloved the Law and the Lands so much as a boy. If he talked he talked Lands and Law, and listening to what all the creatures and plants and Earth and ocean needed to make them work together.

As a young emu child following the flocks round with his mother, he would beg for Ninija to tell him the stories again and again, to sing the songs over and over. He would sit by her side for hours of white-fella’s time as she surveyed all the Lands from her rock. He would sit black and still, breathing slowly, becoming part of Ninija Rock. A babe of the desert, inseparable from her, he knew every grain of soil, every tuft, every hair, every drop, every scent of his Lands.

And in sleep his black knowing continued, for he often brought Ninija new stories Rainbow Serpent sprinkled into his sleep-new storiesdreams. He would tell them to her eagerly, and pull her to the new story place with the urgency of a creator.

This is the story-work Rainbow Serpent does, slithering with his great belly to change rock formations, to make new river beds or waterholes. In this way, new stories, new landforms, and new episodes in the lives of the people are made.

Ginger was of Ninija’s black flesh, but the desert was his real mother. The mothers among Ninija and her people believe that their children have many mothers. Ninija Landowner had been certain that Ginger would never leave his huge red desert mother. But he did. Lumaluma came and took all the young straightbacks. He sent his own young fit pink men in shiny land-cruisers which rode the restless desert sands to take them and show them round the city…..
Ninija interrupts. She has come back to Gina.

Desert Mother
’Ninija, she know what happen exactly to Ginger and his brothers…I talk inside now so I not break law anymore Lumaluma. Gina ask me what “Easy-Happy-Sexy?” I try to tell.’

‘Lumaluma’s men show “Easy-Easy” hunting with big gun full of smoke and fire. “Easy-Easy” digging with big shiny spade, slice through earth “Easy” with big boot behind. “Easy-Easy” make shade-shelter with magic metal wire, with wood already cut straight and thick, with Lumaluma’s grey pretend stone which make anything stick anything together. Then with greenbacks Lumaluma’s men show them how to buy grog which make them “Happy-Happy,” and it, “Easy-Easy.”

Next he tell them white woman secret. How black slave need white woman to get places in life. Amber grog make straightbacks “Sexy-Sexy.” They hungry for own white woman, for what beneath sparkly jewels and slippy silks. Hungry for “Sexy- Sexy” without true, without Lands, without real heart. They hooked. They want be like Lumaluma’s blue-jeans boys, with white smoke-sticks, amber grogand metal cup with “Easy” sweet fiz Coca Cola, and a silver flash of white-fella’s clock time on they wrists.

Then, they want “Easy-Happy-Sexy” all the time. It come in bottle, in needles, in white-fella’s flashing pictures. Tip back they head and swig down status. Sophistication. You throat burn with counting, with measuring, with white fast talk, with getting, with spending. Burn with white man envy, with cheating, with lies, with games of pretend, of “look me I this,” and “look me I that.”

White-fella racket they call “C-i-v-i-l-i-s-a-t-i-o-n.” This Lumaluma’s word. He teach me. He laugh when I try carry big heavy word in my mouth. Straightbacks not look longer at digging stick, at boomerang, at black woman, at making shelter, wilcha, with spinifex and mulga. Not want sweet desert air to honey-up their black skin. Not want hot Sun keep it black like charcoal. Not want paint they body with ash and ochre, with blood and clay. Not want Dreamtime company of Sky Heroes. Not want be emu, be bandicoot, be rainbow, be koala.’

poison dart in the heartNinija’s head gets lower as she makes her lists riddled with the treason of the young men and women of her people. Words are stuck in her throat like poison darts stuck in her heart. They flap, bleeding, like white-sea eagle hooked up in a thorn bush.

Straightbacks take their souls away from soul keeper. They sell to Lumaluma for greenbacks.’

Tears sting her black cheeks white.

Gina turns to look over to high blue rock. Her grandmother has gone. She walks away as quiet as platypus in the tearsWet. Out on the plain, the elders have begun to prepare the Burial Grounds for Ginger-father’s big ceremony. She sees them busy with digging sticks and sand shifters pushed by ten, inside the vast rectangle of desert made sacred for the dead. As she looks out, behind her she hears a loud hiccough like parrot, a giggling like kookaburra, and she knows that this is Ninija gone with Lumaluma again to white Lands and talk-talk-talk, to his bottle Lands. Gina will take Ninija’s place while her grandmother transacts further ‘business’ with white-fella.

bottle lands


Ninija’s story: Day 1: Moment 4


white ghost

Ninija begins to talk out loud to Lumaluma, white ghost, once more. She doesn’t only look down at the red Lands, but occasionally flashes her eyes at Gina. They are like comets and silver fish. They are grandmother-rich. But she is still talking, answering more questions from invisible Lumaluma. Grandmother breaks the Laws many times. Great Landowner is a criminal!

‘She Gina Lumaluma. Ginger’s Gina. Ninija’s Gina. She play with stone of the Lands, her Lands.’

Ninija is not really looking at Gina, but up above her head somewhere. She is answering questions, which Gina cannot hear.

‘Toys? Toys? What this Lumaluma? Ninija not know word.’
Gina drinks these strange words. It goes on like this – Ninija making answers and Gina listening.

‘Baby. Baby. Doll you call?’
Ninija is suddenly outraged. She shouts.

‘Wahhh! She baby. Why she need another?’

Ninija swipes her arms around insisting that Lumaluma leave her alone. She looks down into Earth again, still answering his invisible questionsquestions. Invisible questions, breathed by white-fella. Answered by black grandmother. White-fella can’t stop his talk.

‘Book? Crayon? No Lumaluma. We no need in Lands. Mother Nature and Father Earth. They give everything we need. Rock. Sand. Body. For writing and painting. We grasses. We twig. Tail. Feather – to make brush. Earth. Blood. Ash. Charcoal – to make paint.’

She smiles a little.

‘Gina no book. Gina song. Gina story. She legend of dwellers in Lands, in Sky.’

possumGina is curious like possum. They are talking about her.


Gina has heard this word before. Word. A word in the red and blue desert. Gina tries it out quietly with her stones, dropping them one by one and trying to match the sounds.

“‘Book.” “Book.”
 It sound like bubbles when the Wet comes.’  book

‘”Book.” “Book.”
 Like fruit of mulga drop into hot Earth.’

“Toy.” “Toy.”
 Like wind in a cave. Like jabaroo, big black bird, sing.’

“Doll.” “Doll.”
 Like koala in distance.’

Ninija goes on talking about her granddaughter.doll

’My bitsy Gina. She always love stones. Pink, green, sometime shiny, sometime hole in, sometime black beetle – stone beetle, always change colour. Sun. Moon. She change colour. They change colour. Gina sit. Day and night. Watch stones they change as Sun sleep and rise, and moon rise and sleep.’

Soon Gina moves away. She wants the last of the Sun as she sets. She is weary of all the clatter of words. She darts around, making an ochre dust cloud. Then she becomes still, holding her hands up to the Sky. She can’t hear Ninija talking in the background.

natural worldThe desert children do not have toys. Instead they have stones, leaves, river, Moon, Sky, possum, red Earth. They know everything in their environment in great detail. They are not afraid of the desert dangers. They are naturally clever. They listen deeply so stay in the moment always. They never experience loneliness, because they are integrated into the natural world.

When they are first born they are exposed to their totem, an aspect of Mother Nature, to experience its energy immediately. Gina’s totem is porcupine, jirubuga. As a tiny baby she was always close to her porcupines, imitating them. Jirubuga is Gina’s companion and guardian for life, and afterwards.

Ninija answers yet another of Lumaluma’s questions.

‘She shadow-staring Lumaluma. You do that when you a bitzy thing? She use fingers, hand, to make shadow as sun fall.’
 shadow chasing

Ninijna laughs.

‘She not want shadow to sink into Earth, so when it get very short she run up, she run down line, till it vanish.’

Another question-answer!

‘Gina? She always know these things. She try beat Sun as she fall. Try beat Sun she rise. And when she run she tell story of Light Crab. It chase shadow like Gina. Up. Down. Edge of Sun’s cloak as she slip behind her dark night. When crab fit in thin last shadow space, then he go on tippy-toes and wait till last moment. Then he dive below desert sand, look for Sun inside Earth.’

desert crabTalk for talk’s sake is unknown in the desert. There is no need for language outside thestories and songs and the special rituals and Laws. Ninija’s strange answer-talk blows away like a small handful of bush-rose seed in a breeze. Gina goes over to sit on her favourite mound. Every evening since she arrived in Ninija’s Lands she has sat here. She stares out into the endless desert beyond the mulga scrub, watching the Sun fall into the Earth.

Gina watches and listens. She is still and complete. Then she makes the sounds of Sundown. She puts her head back and howls like dingo; her head down and croaks like frog; she widens her cheeks and whistles like parakeet; and barks like vulture. Then her calls are answered. Gina giggles as her nature playmates join in with her game.desert mound

But Gina does not know that her grandmother has been persuaded to let go of the dog- box, and shown across to a rock. Lumaluma has offered her grog. Now more happily answers his questions. She is more business-like.

‘Gina? She just-know next sound before its come. She know “loud.” She know “high-low.” She know “one-two hoot.” She know “one-two-one-two-three croak.”

jabaruSo she make game with animals. Emu. Gala. Jabaru. Sea Eagle. Purple Heron. They all surprised. Then Gina she laugh and laugh. She just-know the sound come. She desert-mother ear like me when I child.’

She takes another swig from the big bottle with Lumaluma’s help.

‘No. No no no Lumaluma! Gina not here when she baby. She with Ginger and bandicoot wife, many thousand mile away. She not copy Ninija. I not teach her do this. She just crawl out there herself to that mound every day, even when she bitzier.’

Another pause filled with the sound of swallowing.grog

‘No. No. She not happy. She not sad. It not like that out here in desert. She just!’

Then Ninija gets serious again. Her head turns in the direction of the casuarina tree, but then stops and takes another drink.

‘That body not “dead father” Lumaluma. No, that just bones, flesh. She just-know that not Ginger-father.’

Another listening pause.body in tree

‘No. She not sad. Her Ginger-father free of you Lumaluma! She know he on his way here to say galiya, goodbye, before he leave for the camp grounds in Sky.’

Another pause for refreshment.

‘Flies? No Lumaluma.’

Ninija suddenly becomes exasperated with all the questioning. She turns away as if she is turning her back on someone, even though there is no one there. And…..

‘No! Gina live with them in the Dry! She. Fly. They both wait for Wet. All flies go to Vast Hot Desert then!’

’No! No! Red dust good for skin. Keep clean. Great Mother make.’

The questions go on ignoring the just-knowing which fills the desert. They are just ‘talk-talk-talk.’ No listening. No respect. White-fella’s questions are fired like his bullets, but he has decided on the answers for himself. For Gina they flap overhead like Sundown bat as he sips at moonlight. Meanwhile, Ninija has gone with Lumaluma again to his Lands of ‘Easy-Happy-Sexy.’questions like bullets

Later Gina manages to pull Ninija away to King Waterhole, high in the Buga Hills. Here secret spring water can always be found during the parched months of the Dry. Then, not even the green pump provides water at the settlement. This waterhole is their favourite place to go together. Ninija sits Gina on the edge of green rock so that she can dangle her dusty feet in the cool Water.

Their people know this Water as the tears of Rainbow Serpent. They believe that in times of drought Rainbow Serpent, Builder of Lands and Giver of Water, makes sure they have some water in sheltered rock pools. They are called soakaways or waterholes. Some are for drinking, and some for bathing.

rainbow serpentSuddenly Ninija is back in the Lands, back in the ‘Here’ and ‘Now.’ Lumaluma has gone for the moment. Grandmother and granddaughter, Landowner and Landowner-elect, do not talk. Gina leans all her weight against Ninija as they look out, beyond and beyond and beyond. Then Gina makes her grandmother talk without words about him. Ninija sighs, and ‘Wah!,’ the hot-tempered hand slaps down on the stone. It’s as though she is picking her way through a bog full of thickets.

‘When we bring Ginger body back to Lands from city, Lumaluma he follow us. He bring him terrible sounds with him. Car. Truck. White-fella whirring engine. Many many people loud. I think I stop breathing because I not hear my own lungs crinkling shut then open again. I not hear lovely sweet flapping sound of knowing – Lumaluma he call it “waiting.”’

She grimaces.

‘And smell? Smoke! They fill Sky so it like white night. I breathe fast because white night sting if it inside me. I pant like dingo. I look out but only see white-fella wall, wall and more wall. Wall bigger than Ninija Rock or Buga Mountain. Wall and roof so I not smoke filling skysee Sky. I cannot run without big hard concrete stop!’

Gina encourages Ninija to carry on. That way Lumaluma will not find her and drag her away to his ‘Easy-Happy-Sexy,’ whatever and wherever that is.

Then Gina suddenly asks a silent question.

‘What he Lumaluma do to Ginger father?’

Her eyes are black desert ovals, making eye questions. Gina just-knows what happened to her father, and just-knowing is enough, but she and her people are addicted to eye-talk. Mouth is easy to poison, but eyes, they know real truth. ‘Eyes talk rich-rock-Water-Sky best.’

Ninija speaks slowly inside. But this is Lands’ business, and Landowners must do what is needed for the Lands no matter what it entails. The Lands come first. So Ninija will tell Gina what happened to her father in white-fella’s talk-talk-talk. She begins, mortuary lawstalking inside, once again glad to obey the Mortuary Laws of not talking out loud.

‘Lumaluma take him spirit. Jam it tight inside his big bottle Gina. He shake ithard and I see him down there. Father. Son. Landowner-to-be. In bubbles. I try get the bottle from white fella. Our Landowner spirit never been trap like rock-fall in cave. Never close in with hard hard Lumaluma metal fist!’

She puts her open palms up to her face to cover a mixture of tears and laughter.

‘Ginger, he swim in white-fella’s seeing-stone bottle. He go to white-fella city. Leave our Lands. Elders ask him to leave because he prefer white-fella’s bottle to Lands. No more Dreaming story for him Ginger.’

Ninija and her people live in peace and harmony with their environment. Their lives are integrated totally with the cosmos. Crime dreaming storiesin the Lands was unknown until ‘civilized’ white people arrived there.

coco cola godsSo, it is almost impossible to understand how he has the power to tear them out of their integration, their solid harmony. Perhaps he has got into their minds with his bottles and flashing pictures and addictions? Or perhaps he is aided by his own gods of Coca-Cola and Levi, of Ford and Football, of Arms deals and the CIA? He has found a weakness in the fabric of their balanced lives, and his power over them like a laser beam. White-fella wants everyone to be like him. His ‘Easy-Happy-Sexy’ never seems to fail.


laser beam

NInija”s story: Day 1 : Moment 3

child with flies

Gina, the child, is playing with itzi-bitzies of Ninija’s Lands. She can’t see or hear Lumaluma the way Ninija does. She rubs the flies out of her eyes, but she sees nothing. She pulls her ears, but hears nothing. ‘Lumaluma. Lumaluma. This very strange name.’

She talks inside like Ninija.

‘Never talk-talk-talk like this before. Not need talk in desert. But white-fella make Ninija talk and I do what Ninija do. Gina great Landowner one day like Ninija. She say it “Land business” this talk-talk-talk.’
 She picks up her favourite stones and speaks to them in turn.

‘Gina of Ginger. Ginger of Ninija. Ninija grandmother. Great Landowner. Strong and wise woman. Lumaluma got into her through Ginger. She weak with white-fella poison. With his “Easy-Happy-Sexy.” She not fight him, not send strong elders with spear to kick white-fella, undibi, trespasser, away our Lands. And Sky Heroes not make storm make Fire so he run scared back to him city.’

stonesShe throws the stones up in the air, and catches just one which is pale blue and talks to that.

‘Maybe this rite, lesson for Ninija. Not just saying galiya, goodbye, to her Ginger like our people say when someone travels on to campfires in the Sky. Maybe Sky Heroes need know white-fella’s big trouble. He drive us out of desert to him settlement. It make him feeeeeel better! Then he try make us like him.’

She throws a handful of the red Earth, and tumbles after it. Then, jumps straight into the air, copying Ninija’s anger.

‘Ninija. Gina. My people. All want go back desert heart. Not stay here at settlement. But we stay. Ninija say we must. But why some of white-fella badness it get into her? Maybe it happen when we go to big city to bring Ginger father back.’ginger father

Ninija and Gina, and their people are sad. Ginger, son of Ninija and father of Gina, straightback of the tribe, has been taken away by Lumaluma to his city. The white bosses came to get him. They gave him bundles of green papers, Lumaluma money. Then, they showed him where to buy grog, alcohol. Now Ginger is dead, like all the straightbacks. They are prisoners in city-concrete.

Gina talks on to her stone friends. She stands straight, strong limbs bright orange against the dark blue sky of Sundown. She stares at the single casuarina tree towering above all the dog boxes. Her favourite stones are fitted perfectly one in between every two fingers close to the knuckles. They listen to her inside speech. Gina is ‘tree’ while she talk-talk-talks like white-fella, talk-talk-talks silent like Ninija.

stones 1‘White-fella they come before, talking on and on. They tell Ninija what “best.” We not understand “best”. We not choose. We no choice. White-fella choose, count, talk and point with long-long white finger.’

She points both her index fingers over in the direction of invisible Lumaluma.

‘Ninija say he always want change what is. They not listen never to Ninija and Ginger and the clever fellas about us black-skins. They choose “best” for us, then give many gifts like tin houses and hot shiny dresses and trousers to cover ourselves. And magic Fire to cook roo and emu. And big shiny tin camel to take us fast-fast, and carry everything we buy with green papers.’

She runs quickly round and round the trunk of the giant tree.

‘Ninija angry. Gina never see it before white-fella come to Lands. She not angry when we “Now” and “Here” with Lands. Never.’

She stretches taller, stands on her toes and brings her arms out to the sides. She offers her pale palms up to Sky. She has become the casuarina tree poking up to Sun and down deep in red Earth. She talks with the important voice of the tree.big tree

‘Somehow, Lumaluma choosing and counting and looking and waiting got inside Ninija. And she got into the counting and choosing and waiting and looking. And always she talking to him Lumaluma. Always he pull her away from us and the Lands with longing, with questions, with white-fella advice. And when she sleep she wake me with strange no-sleep talk. “Easy”……”Happy”…..’’Sexy’’…and she giggle. Maybe that Lumaluma paid green papers to get into her sleep. Maybe to talk-talk-talk deep in her ear.’

Gina slowly turns. She searches for Ninija’s eyes lost in her tousled hair. She implores with the silent words of wise ‘tree.’

‘Without words, what Lumaluma like Ninija? Make picture for me. You look black angry, first over there, then over here, hopping and slapping mad. Ninija! Ninija!’

drumming fingersGina throws down the stones she holds between her fanned fingers, and stops being ‘tree.’ She runs to Ninija outside the dog box. But Ninija stares on into the red dust of her Lands unaware of Gina. Her fingers drum the alien metal. Any moment she might lash out against white-fella’s ‘flat’ and ‘straight’. Gina grabs her grandmother’s other hand. Shakes it. Screams to get her grandmother’s eyes back from Lumaluma. A child. Just-knowing about Lands’ business, about ‘talk-talk-talk.’ But wanting things as they were before with Ninija and the Lands and stories and songs, and with Ginger father.

‘Where he Lumaluma? What he Lumaluma? How he white-fella ghost got inside big black Ninija pulling you away to him “Money” Lands, him “There” Lands, him “Then” Lands. Him “Easy-Happy-Sexy” Lands!’

Now Gina is angry like her grandmother.

‘Now he get inside Gina with talk-talk-talk, white talk-talk-talk.’

She growls like Ninija and turns round and round in a tight circle.

‘Come back to the Lands, our Lands. To “Now.” To “Here.” Everything, everyone “Here” and “Now.” “Here” and “Now” forever.’desert talk

Tiny tears settle in the corners of her eyes attracting even more thirsty flies.

‘Why lands business? Why change coz white-fella come?’

She quickly picks up her stones again and runs away. She drops rare questions behind her. Drops them like all white-fella things. Tears. Stones. The completeness of child.


complete child

Ninija’s story : Day 1: Moment 2



wilcha 2

When Ninija, Traditional Landowner and great spiritual leader, chooses the site of the shelters they will build, first, she prospects the ground. She searches for underground water, or long shadows cast by hills, so that the site will be as cool as possible. She walks many times around the plot, slowly, feeling the creatures that live there. Then she makes Fire with her Fire sticks and sits still for a long time on the Earth’s skin. Once she’s satisfied she searches the mulga shrub for the boughs to make perfect arches with. She marks them with white ash from her Fire. Then, when the Moon is fullest, she goes with the women to cut them with stone axes. Full Moon is the best time to cut supports for shelters because the resins inside are hard.

Then the women lash the boughs together with kangaroo strips to make a long tunnel. Tough grasses are laced between the uprights, and next spinifex grass is stuffed in the gaps until the whole construction is covered. In time, spinifex grows like a thick skin. Wilcha, shade shelter, is cool and airy. The people spend most of their time in the open. They become sick if they can’t see Sky or feel Earth under their bare feet. But sometimes when they walk, they rest during the day in shade shelters, and walk at night.

There’s a child at Ninija’s feet. She’s playing with the red earth, some small stones. aboriginal child

She is small and dark. Her black eyes are desert eyes. They listen for food and water. But Ninija’s eyes have stopped listening for food or water. Instead, they listen for the shiny land-cruiser, ‘silver goose.’ It comes with man and gun to shoot food for her. She listens for the green pump to spit out water into her carrying bowl.

Ninija and her people wait for the bags of white sugar and flour to be dropped in their laps. They wait for rabbits and roos to be hung on the hook in the casuarina tree, their hearts pierced by Lumaluma’s tiny hot metal balls thrown from guns. It’s strange that they rely on the ‘good deeds’ of swaggering ‘white-fella.’

porcupinesBut the child does not rely on white-fella. She has grown up in the Lands. Her ‘outside’ child refuses white powders and meat tasting of metal from white-fella. She prefers the stories and secrets, the ceremonies and symbols. But her inside ‘child’ knows that these ‘Easy’ things are bad! Instead, she runs out in the desert to find pink berries. She sucks the juice of purple grass. She rubs her hands on the outside of bee nests and licks them. Then she curls up to sleep with her totem porcupines under the scrub. She never enters the tin ‘dog boxes,’ just peeping in from a distance.

White-fella, or Lumaluma, has not touched her. He can’t get to her because she is a child in the Lands. The desert has wrapped her in the oiled skins of intuition, of ‘just- knowing.’ Desert knowing is not white-fella’s kind of knowing. He uses words and thoughts and another kind of power when he knows. The child ‘just-knows,’ because she is in everything around her, and everything around her is in her. She does not know questions, or doubts. The special words of the creation Law given to them by the Great Mother are the only words she knows.

The child sits with her back to her grandmother, but she just-knows every feeling, every blink and curl of her lip. ‘My head so fill with breathhim people telling me everything!’ Ninija rants on. The child can’t hear her words, because she speaks in silence this time. In the desert there is no speaking just for speaking’s sake out loud: just a desert full of knowing. Now, the child and Ninija and their people must stay silent out of respect for Ginger. Ginger-father, Ginger-son, and Ginger straightback. So instead of speaking, they sing inside. Their breath does all the talking they need.

The child just-knows that something strange is happening to Ninija-grandmother. She just-knows that grandmother has turned her back on her big red desert. That she is white-fella weak more than ever before. But, grandmother is on ‘Land’s business.’ Ginger-father’s death is also Land’s business.

Sun is high and Ninija looks for some shade. She moves to white-fella ‘corner’ of the dog-box without losing Sun. She grabs the rough column of the front porch, tugging at it. Her powerful movements make the tin roof rattle.

‘My head filled with “whens”, with “how longs.” Full of counting. Flooded out with clock time, with coins, notes, ever since I heard you name Lumaluma. Lumaluma. I bitter. I count all those days I waited Ginger come back from you city. Waiting him turn big strong back on Lumaluma. Ginger. Counting! Counting!’

She pushes and pulls violently.

big brown bottle‘All those times I see big brown bottle you give suck down him spirit. Suck he away from his Lands. His people. His kin. Swallow it greedy down till he down good in bottom. Then you shake he hard, your thumb like stopper. And he trap there!’ Ninija stamps.

‘Wah! Our laws say that we never speak name of dead once they ready travel in camp grounds. It sad sometime never to say their name again! But how I smile when I promise never speak his name “Ginger” again, when he dead in you filthy city! When he free of you Lumaluma!’

She tastes the dust her stamping has created. Then suddenly she smiles. ‘Lumaluma, you nnnnnever get to him again with bottles and needles, with you “Easy-Happy-Sexy.” He gone somewhere black-black you white ghosts never trespass.’

She wags her finger at the Sky.

stories 1

Ninija’s Story begins: Day 1: moment 1

Ninija in despair

‘It no good Lumaluma! I won’t listen!’ Ninija puts her fingers into her ears so that she can’t hear Lumaluma’s whispering. ‘You can’t get me listen the way Ginger did. I too old. I too clever. I never leave the Lands like he did.’ Words are flushed into her ears. ‘And I woman, strong woman. I push away bottle you push to my lips. Away! I throw away needle like serpent fang to the ground. Stamp on it!’

She stamps on an imaginary syringe. Its metal and glass are unknown in the desert. Her voice is angry and her tongue bitter.

‘You whisper again with you silky white voice. You questions. You white-fella bossy with “ought” and “if I were you.” And you promises. Always you offer of money, greenbacks. I got better things listen to. You white ghost not belong Ninija Lands!’

dog boxShe flexes one arm against the painted corrugations of the ‘dog box.’ This is what white-fella calls the housing provided for her people. Her other arm lolls. She is dressed-up in a pink taffeta dress donated by Lumaluma’s church-women do-gooders. It has been colour-washed orange by desert dust. Her large breasts and bloated stomach are loaded inside the synthetic fabric sizzling in the heat. Her thin legs emerge from a flouncy skirt impractical here. She looks down, hanging her head. Her flax hair is lank and roughly cut.

‘Look at the red dust of my Lands!’

She looks deep into the Earth. The flies constantly search for moisture from the corners of her dark eyes.

‘See it there between my black toes. I just keep on talking to that red powder until I can’t hear Lumaluma him whisper anymore.’

She cries black tears.

‘This my Land. I see it. Now I try hard hear it sing again. But you always fill my face, my sounds, Lumaluma! You always think you cleverest, you know-best!’

She fingers the hot metal. She makes her palms flat to match white-fella’s ‘flat’ and ‘straight.’ Then she shudders at this article provided by Lumaluma’s boss men, to ‘protec,’ to ‘give shelter.’

‘Why this holding me up Lumaluma? You not ask permission!’
The people in the Lands are never angry. Only the Dreaming Heroes, the mythological beings who helped create everything on Father Earth’s skin, have that right. Ninija and her people are Dreaming Heroesangry only when there is tribal war. But since white- fella barged in, Ninija and the people are angry every day.

As she speaks, Ninija tugs at the alien fabric of her frock. She is obliged to wear it by white-fella to cover her nakedness.

‘If dog-box not here, Ninija will lean one of her rocks she share with Dreaming Heroes.’ She suddenly lets the sweaty pink fabric fall from her fingers, and smiles to be back with the Dreaming Heroes in her Lands. ‘Leaning heavy on man-lizard nintucka’s pointy pink elbow. Or close to the smooth lump on end Rainbow Serpent’s tail, great Giver of Water. Or even perching cozy on round white round Onion Rocks which bijada, emu, sicked up because he ate too many.’

She laughs as she thinks of this assortment of rocks. Then she sighs and smiles, which is what she knows best.

rock formations


These sacred rocks of Ninija’s Lands are the Earth skeleton of the masters of creation, the Sky Heroes. Their stone bodies and characters surround Ninija and her people in their desert lives. The Heroes of the Sky are the givers of the Dreaming stories, and the Laws of traditional life. Their ‘Lands stories’ exist all around the tribe so that the people are in constant contact with their work. It is Ninija’s job as Traditional Landowner to survey the Sky Heroes’ creations for damage or undibi, trespassers. She must look for the new stories they make among the rock formations. Ninija is a clever and experienced reader of landforms and any tiny change in them. Her eye is the best for thousands of miles around.

Without their stories and their Lands, Ninija and her people cannot and do not survive. The stories help them to survive the hardest place to live on planet Earth. If the people are taken away from the Lands, like the young straighbacks have been, and exposed to the way of ‘white ghosts,’ they get sick and die quickly. But the white settlers cannot understand why the desert people cannot adapt to their ‘civilized’ ways of living. They cannot adapt to theirs. They do not even try to, seeing nothing good in their savage lives. They are rude and uninvited visitors to Ninija’s Land!

They know just how important nature is in the lives of these desert peoples, but ‘white-fella’ bully has happily gone ahead and blasted his way through the Lands. He uses what Ninija calls his ‘magic fire bangers’ to destroy Earth’s skin. They made the Aboriginal settlementsettlement she and her people inhabit now in this way, and many others across the big Lands of Australia. When he’s finished blasting the sacred rocks, his big trucks bring sheets of ‘magic’ metal, with square wooden frames painted with stinking ‘preservatives’ not known in the desert. Houses for the old and sick, and for the children is a must. They don’t ask for opinions, or permission. ‘They say there no need coz Ninija is only a woman leader and she pay no money for the Lands so she not own them!’

When everything was finished at the new settlement, white men went into the desert to round up Ninija and her people. They drove them back to their new permanent home like cattle. There are no gates to keep them imprisoned, but they just obey. ‘White-fella he take charge of us poor savages. We like children who live rough.’ Ninija feels helpless. But white fella sees only the hard struggle for survival they have in desert life. He cannot see the beauty or the freedom. So, he opens up his big black wings to cover them. He says ‘primitive’ and ‘ancient’ should be swept away from view as quickly as possible. They must be replaced with ‘modern’ and ‘civilized.’

‘We used make our own shade-shelters, wilcha.’ Ninija remembers so clearly.

‘Ninija go walkabout, choose mulga trunks to bend and make big arch. Until we got old and “white-fella-weak,” and you take all young straightbacks to you city Lumaluma!’
The anger surges then subsides, like sea waves.

‘Big mulga arch protec. Spinifex grass sweet on top. Give cool shelter. Now we responsibility of white man, of you Lumaluma! Now you help us old sick black people. We bitzy children. We helpless! “Dog Box” Wah!!’ she slaps the wall. ‘No air and black. Even bad for dog! And hot-hot!’

wilchaShe bangs the metal of the ‘dog box’ hard with her closed fist.

Ninija’s wilcha are perfect shelters. There are many today that are very old. They are like long tunnels full of cool shade, and their covering of spinifex grass, makes them blend in with the desert colours so they are invisible. They provide shade shelter for all the desert creatures.

‘You steal our young straightbacks Lumaluma! Take them your city. Why? Why white-fella’s way right, and Ninija way wrong?’

In desert life ‘why’ has no place. It’s forbidden. In fact, it was never heard of before white fella came. Ninija is talking out loud which is also forbidden by the Mortuary Laws at this time. It is unknown that Ninija breaks the laws that she and her ancestors have made. What kind of power does Lumaluma have over her?

And again. Bang! The corrugations quiver! Ninija’s hand smarts. She moves her head rapidly, looking and shouting in Lumaluma’s direction, shifting all her weight on to her right side as if she is about to sprint away.’Why your friends expect me live in tin house Lumaluma? I never live inside like you where I not see Sky. Never inside, where I not breathe in nothing but the poison of roof, of window, of door. Inside where I not become dark holding hand of Sun when she ready to sleep. No! Inside your dog box, I dark soon I through door, soon as I inside!’

She steps away and notches the backs of her hands into her sides. ‘You tell me “open window,” “open door,” “step outside for a dingomoment.” “Take it e-e-e- e-e-asy.”‘
She’s a good mimic. ‘You silky voice smooth like you metal. Straight like corner and roof and square you draw with magic wood. Tight. Biting me like crazy dingo.’
Now, she slices the air with frantic horizontal and vertical movements like white man’s corners and straight lines as she talks. ‘Desert life full of round and curvy. Inside Ninija hot when it cool outside. Ninija cool it hot outside. Inside! It change what like outside!’

She bends her knees using her hands, their palms facing upwards, like white-fella’s roof on top of the dog-boxes. She pushes hard up against the Sky, ‘No, no, no!’ she wags her finger. ‘If Earth hot, Ninija hot. Earth cool, Ninija cool. Ninija not separate. Not different like Lumaluma inside walls, where you hide from you people. Ninija stay in cool air, hot air, with all people and Lands. We not separate, not different. We one big ocean of living.’
She shifts her weight on to her other leg and growls.

‘Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Why I do what you friends tell me?’



Moment 12: Glossary Part 2

standing and becoming part of Earth

standing on the earthThis is similar to being absolutely in ‘the moment’ or ‘aesthetically absorbed’ (see 1. ‘Now’ and ‘Here’). Ninija and her People are so integrated with nature that by standing completely still and projecting themselves into the Rock on which they stand, and by concentrating on their blackness (their skins are some of the blackest among the Peoples of the world), they are able to get inside the Rock. They, and today me too, become part of it. There they/we shelter, nourishing themselves/ourselves under the skin of the Earth


A totem is an aboriginal’s main link with the Dreaming legends. Children are born into a totem Clan and so become eternal totemsmembers of a group of People all of whom take the same name and identity of a natural object or phenomena. They share their soul with this creature or other natural phenomenon, and a great deal of their lives is spent caring for their soul mates. If an aboriginal should for some reason deny the existence of his or her totem, then they will lose their personal identity totally. More crucially, they will be forced to lead a life of agony and isolation outside Nature. Ninija’s custodial story, Jundal Gianga, in chapter 4 skilfully describes how totems are bestowed. I too have related my experience of how my totem Baru, Crocodile, was transmitted to me.

travelling on /making campfires

campfires in the skyNinija and her People believe that physical death signifies the termination of a visit to the physical world, and that this is merely an interlude in perpetuity. After the Djang, the departure of the spirit from the human body, the spirit resumes its travelling on in the Lands of the Dead. Each spirit lights a campfire which is visible in the Night Sky as it goes. According to western knowledge, this ‘campfire’ is observed as the phenomenon of a star. There is no translation of the word ‘star’ in most Australian languages. I realise now that ‘star’ is merely a concept supported by scientific discovery and by looking into the Universe in ‘white fella’s way. Towards the end of Ninija’s narrative we experience the Djang as her son Ginger’s spirit quits its body and goes ‘travelling on’ in the Sky (chapter 12).

clever fellas

This expression is used to denote the elders or wise people of the tribe. They are similar to shamans in other traditions and occupy clever fellasa special place between the physical and spiritual worlds.


aboriginal workersThese are the young strong People of the ethnic groups who would customarily look after their elders and rear children. During ‘white-fella’s domination of the native Peoples of Australia, and of New Zealand and Tasmania, there was a movement to ‘civilise’ the young people so that they could live in a ‘normal’ western society. These cruel acts entailed removing them from their natural state and forcing them to attend colleges where they were taught hygiene and brainwashed into behaviour which was socially acceptable to the white middle-classes. But in truth, as with Negroes in North America, this was essentially to make sure a supply of slaves. Predictably perhaps, eventually these young unspoiled beings were corrupted by white fella’s money, liquor and drugs, and often died of excess in the back streets of cities, which were alien to them. 



Ninija believes that the way her story has been set down will allow my People to understand how they can make balance in their lives. Also, how allegedly ‘civilised’ people may discover other ways to live that do not deplete the world’s resources or disconnect them from natural lives. But perhaps above all, for in all other respects I am confident that her story will speak eloquently without further elucidation, it is important to boldly underline the cruelty and total insensitivity that many of our ancestors and more recent kinsfolk have perpetrated on primitives (or indigenes.) Their attempts to ‘civilise’ those whose lives are judged as savage is perhaps one of the grossest, most arrogant acts ever.


Speaking as an ex-anthropologist, I believe that all such attempts have been inspired by fear of different value systems, and disdain for magic, spiritual evolution, and the like. But, like ninija, I believe they are forgivable in many ways. You will discover as you read that forgiveness is always possible where people dwell in the Lands of the Heart, in ninija’s Lands. forgiveness

In what seems another life time, I took the bus from Alice Springs to visit Ayer’s Rock deep in the interior of Australia. Later that day ninija called me to her as you will remember. The seemingly genial bus driver was making a commentary by microphone as we drove along. He kept his bespectacled eyes always conscientiously on the endless road ahead. I see his eyes often in my mind’s eye, dry and myopic. I can also hear his reaction-less flat voice relayed through the sound system of the sleek bus.

We were soon to make the only turn south towards the cul-de-sac of Alice Springs, the last ‘civilised’ outpost before ‘the Dreaming Lands begin. When we drove past the Aboriginal College, established by missionaries he seemed extremely proud of, we stared at a utilitarian building. He continued on with his drawling clever commentary as we looked at it.

Alice Springs

He spoke. ‘The aboriginals come to this college from their townships to learn reading, writing, arithmetic….but first they have to learn hygiene.’

He paused to measure his morality.

‘It’s not true that we have a colour bar in this country! No. We have a dirt bar.’

I wonder if it was a coincidence that there were no aboriginals cluttering up the front of this deserted college of ablutions and fumigation as living specimens of his discrimination. Incidentally, neither were there any traveling on the bus?

discrimination 1



Moment 11: Land’s Glossary, part 1



‘Now’ and ‘Here’

dreamtimeThis represents the innate ability or talent of becoming utterly absorbed in the moment. Ninija and her People (children are included in the term ‘People’) have it. It is also found in certain non-primitive sectors, e.g. young children below the age of 7 of any epoch, modern people who have a sensory deprivation, e.g. visual impairment, auditory/speech impairment, physically or mental disability. It is especially so for those who are diagnosed ‘autistic,’ along with anyone involved in artistic activities i.e. musicians, composers, sculptors and others who express themselves in modes other than language. I like to use the term ‘aesthetically absorbed,’ as it perhaps makes a distinction between intellectual and aesthetic absorption. This has also been coined by colleagues interested in the phenomenon.

Those experiencing ‘Now’ and ‘Here’ have the capacity to become the thing in which they are absorbed. They may become a song they are singing, a drum they are playing, a painting, cloud, rain, gong, flower-head. In this state nothing other than the thing in which they are absorbed matters. They are absolutely ‘Now’ and ‘Here,’ utterly engaged. There is no ‘Then’ or ‘There.’ Their between worldssenses and spirit are working at largest capacity, their intellects are quiet. They interact with the natural world as if they are creatures. In other words, they are not driven by thought or language. To ninija and her People ‘Now and Here’ is their natural state, their native home. ‘Now and Here’ is not connected with time or place; they are constant states or conditions, and usually they know no other way of being. In the kingdoms of ‘Now and Here,’ they are eternally present, integrated, notched into the Earth, eternally grateful and reverential.


Scan 16These three words occur a great deal in the text and of course they are simply adjectives known well, for the most part, to us all. But on the lips of ninija they are her way of describing what happens when you live ‘There’ and ‘Then,’ as she believes most of my people do. In the story she is forced by lumaluma to experience this state briefly, but generally it is alien to those who live ‘in the moment.’ Often all three words are used together to evoke a cumulative feeling, ie. the second depends on the first, the third on the second, etc. Each part is now described individually. a) In more detail, ‘Easy’ is about the convenience of modern living e.g. switching switches, opening cans, travelling at high-speed in vehicles without effort, stealing from others, and corruption, etc., all of which are unnatural in traditional aboriginal life. The so-called ‘ease’ with which we live, according to Ninija’s beliefs, means that we lose touch with our native instincts and thus stop to have any direct interaction with our environment. In other words, we live always indirectly, or at a distance, through materials and commodities.

Ninija says that if we have ‘Easy’ then it follows that we also have ‘Happy.’ She considers this to be an illusory happiness which isolatedobscures a natural state of being in which ‘Happy’ or ‘Sad’ are not considerations. This concept is elucidated in gina’s story, ‘Mini, Honeybee Girl .’ b) Then ‘Happy’ leads to ‘Sexy.’ This in ninija’s view is the tireless obsession with physical stimulation because we are no longer directly seeing and sensing the world. It is also bound up with an enduring power over other people, which ninija believes generally white men have over white women, and of course, children and black women. The power is created insidiously by developing a dependent state in others, and by a lack of genuine identity. This concept will become clearer during the course of the story. At this stage it is perhaps important to say that ninija and her People have entirely different moral-sexual codes to those of white Europeans/Americans. There is no such thing as ‘Sexy’ out in the Desert. This is made clearer by one of the stories ninija tells in chapter 6, namely ‘Sacred Love.’

white fella’s flashing pictures

flashing picturesNinija believes that my People live by words and pictures and not by stories and ritual language, as hers do. During the events of her own story she discovers that white People often make sense of their individual worlds through millions of pictures which they store in their memories. These consist of both pictures that they take with their cameras and eyes, and those which are forced upon them through the media. There are others which are handed down to them through the nuclear family and other social groups they belong to. Each person must match him or herself with the pictures. On top of this, the pictures all have words or captions associated with them so that each person can make a continual internal commentary based on them. I suggest that this is because my People have largely ceased to use the other senses in tandem with the dominant visual sense, ie. taste, smell, hearing, feeling, the kinesthetic sense of our bodies moving through space, etc. This means that our lives and our self-images are often constructed totally from words and pictures.

white fella

Ninija also believes that ‘white fella,’ a term she will often refer to us by, has the power to flash his pictures into the lives of Peoples who inhabit ‘Here’ and ‘Now,’ thus tempting them away with ‘Easy Happy Sexy.’ This has until now been a common lumalumaoccurrence among the young male and female straightbacks of her tribe, and of many other ethnic groups. This is explained by her story for gina called ‘The Telephone Box’ in chapter 3. 5. ‘The Lands’ This is a state of consciousness and not a particular place, although of course ninija is also the traditional landowner of a massive tract of Desert. Here she and her People move around with the seasons, and these are called her ‘Lands.’ She does not own them in a material sense, but is the custodian as a result of her spiritual enlightenment. Often when she refers to ‘the Lands’ she is alluding to the Earth and so to her intimacy with Nature. ‘The Lands’ could be said to represent her integration with the cosmos, more of which will be revealed in the narrative.

The Dreaming Legends

dreaming legendsThere is a great deal more awareness of the Dreamtime today, but in her precious story, ninija tries to give a special insight. Its design illustrates how the Dreaming Legends are an integral part of real aboriginal lives, both told as a prayer in ritual language over and over, and present physically in the Land forms around them. So the spirits of the Dreaming heroes, known sometimes as the Sky Heroes, are tangible and constant in their daily lives. They have no choice in whether to believe in them or not. They do not question. The heroes represent their moral models as well as the spiritual.