standing and becoming part of Earth
This 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 members 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
Ninija 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).
These 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.
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.
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?