Ninija’s story: Day 3: moment 9: Ginger’s death

burial grounds


Back at the Burial Grounds, it is Sundown and the cooking Fires near the coffin site on the desert floor have been stoked up. Marlu, kangaroo is cooked and bijada men are carefully stripping off the remains of the charred skin ready to eat. They sing a special song as they conduct this important ritual.

Everyone is there, everyone except Ninija. As Ninija is on ‘Lands’ business’ little Gina will take her place at the feast, tasting the first meat taken from the breast. Then Gina will start the bijada song of her father, her voice deep and loud and getting more like her grandmother’s every day. Though she is still young, she has Ninija’s strong spiritual presence, and Ginger’s gentle countenance. She knows the desert Law and will follow it to the letter. But now grandmother’s story in white-fella style is with her.

‘Gina wasp-angry Lumaluma got inside Ginger-father. Gina wasp-angry Lumaluma inside Ninija.’song for a dead father

The men start their long-necked dancing now around the massive Fires, and Gina tastes marlu, kangaroo. She gives her approval and the celebrations and feasting begin. Gina feels the thrill of the Lands in ‘Now’ and ‘Here’ along her spine. Everything is underway for the Twelfth Day when the power of the Djang will fill the Skies, and the visible and invisible worlds will be one for its duration.

Today, at Sunrise Gina climbed up into the casuarina tree to look closely at her Ginger-father, and to check the work of Sun and jabaroo. But the Laws say she must not touch him without Ninija being present. His flesh is shrinking, and jabaroo helps by pecking some of it away, so she just-knows that his bones will be ready in time. But Gina has a small worry that her grandmother seems too busy to paint his clan lines, and that only she can do it. The Law, and Ninija herself as the keeper and regulator of the Law, says that the Landowner must give a sign that the bones are ready to be moved, but first the flesh must bear the clan lines.

aboriginal lawWorries, white-fella style worries with no point to them! She blinks, and soon the Lands swell out in Gina’s little porcupine heart, and push all the other ‘thinking’ of ‘Then’ and ‘There’ Lands away. Those are not Gina’s Lands! Everything will be ready, and Ninija’s wisdom and strength will soon put an end to white-fella’s meddling.

Gina smiles and howls her daughter’s gratitude for her bijada father’s precious journey. She will leave everything up to the Great Mother and the Dreaming heroes. She watches the bijada elders carrying marlu’s bones to the centre of the Burial Site to be arranged in the special pattern for the Djang. She eats a little more tender meat with no care in the world.

Meanwhile, Ninija walks around the settlement aimlessly. It is already the second day of the twelve day lead-eldersup to the Djang, and she has not located Ginger’s spirit yet. She has only looked up briefly, and from a distance, at his corpse in the casuarina. He is lost to her, somewhere between the physical life and the world of spirits. Ninija’s heart is divided: one half is closed, thickened with anger and blame for Lumaluma’s meddling with the sacred rituals of death; the other open, sad and compassionate about white fella’s problems, and attending to Land’s business.

no division; no separation‘Ninija never divide. Never separate. This great sadness for first time. Ninija she trust even sharp stones prick she feet.’

She looks back to see the huge Fires at the Burial Ground down in the Vast Hot Desert as she climbs the slope. Paper-tree wood was dragged from the Buga Mountains and larded with wax so that it will burn more slowly. The mortuary Fires must be stoked through the night and continuously up until the moment Ginger’s spirit arrives at the Djang. They will guide him along the River of Stars.

‘Fires for Ginger and him dead emu kin. Fires white-hot in hot-hot day of Dry. Spirit of Fire, Sun gone into Earth, it clean, it change everything. It too-too hot for Lumaluma.’

The elders and the emu people carve and build with the red sand night and day. Their strong bodies are carving the desertlubricated by the heat, and all their energy is focused on the moment of Djang. Ninija climbs on up into the black Buga Hills, in the dark. She knows the Land perfectly with her pink soles, every rock and every spiky bush. She talks inside, her voice deep and dark, but disturbed by the strange flickering of anxiety.

‘I not know if there are campfires up there in black Sky tonight.’

Ninija nods her head in an upward direction.

frightening city
’I frightened use eyes. Frightened to put head back. But I not hear the crackling of those campfires. No. Ninija she hear Lumaluma’s traffic growling when we go dead house for Ginger. Cars. Trucks, so many trucks. People with black shiny feet tapping along straight grey rocks, going on and on in straight lines. They talk-talk-talk. So many people I not know. So many people rushing to so many places. Many people with no skin.’

Her feet confidently tread the path to Pelican Salt Pan despite the thick dark. Then she stops suddenly and crouches down.

‘I feel shaking.’
She trembles violently.

‘Feel you shaking me by throat Lumaluma!’shaken

She shouts into night.

‘Ninija taste white-fella fear on tongue! Lumaluma, you put out all the Sky Fires?’

She hurries back to wake him, and demand that he leaves her alone, that he leaves her Lands!

leave the lands

Much later, Lumaluma is finally asleep after their drinking and chain-smoking together. She was determined to kick him out, but he worked his magic on her once again. Ninija can finally creep away from the dog-boxes and walk wearily away in the opposite direction from the Burial Grounds. She will go to Yellow Hill where she will make paint for Ginger’s clan lines. Suddenly she is once again firmly walking the story steps through the smoking togethermulga scrub, turning left and right, towards the deep paint holes. They stay moist despite the greatest of heat.

Story is ringing like bell-bird cry, swimming through Ninija’s whole body. She smiles her wide smile of the Lands once again as she pulls the pink dress over her head and discards it.

‘Lumaluma him not compete with Mother Nature. He not squeeze past it. He not swirl his white smoke inside the Great Mother’s joy.’

Ninija can see the Burial Fires reflected in the Sky over the ridge, and can hear Gina’s voice begin the emu song. As she walks more quickly, regaining her desert strength, she is accompanied by a few tall emus from the pack which is beginning to gather for Ginger’s ceremony. They are taller than Ninija and trot ahead of her to emu flockclear the way.

Moon is huge and his light almost dazzling, which is perfect for what she has to do. The natural world will always give help to those in tune with it. Ninija starts to hum the emu song together with her people, as she gets closer to the paint holes.

She brings her coolamon, carrying bowl, pressed close to her belly to mix the paint in, and her small stone axe to nick her finger for blood. The clan lines on bijada boy’s head must be made with some of her blood to make the paint a slightly pink colour. She wedges her coolamon in the sand by the central hole and jumps down inside it, already building up saliva to help her collect the right amount of slippy yellow clay. Then she stops momentarily and stands straight, listening with all her might!

desert paintBragga Bragga!!’

She can feel Ginger’s smiling long-legged spirit getting closer.

‘All white-fella sadness and anger snaps off like lizard tail tip when old! Ninija she hurry. She not afraid to look at his bijada body on his platform.’

Ninija is slightly ashamed that she was afraid to look, but she realises clearly now that her work with Lumaluma is essential for the peace and harmony of their Lands to be fully restored. She just-knows that desert wisdom and respect for the Great Mother is what white-fella people need so badly at this time.

As blue-backed Ninija mixes paint deep in the clay hole, loading cupped sticky hands-full into her carrying bowl, she sings of desert forgiveness, a tender song of embracement. White-fella bully has time and time againdesert forgiveness abused and punished her people, always so convinced that they know the right way. Even though her Ginger has missed the approach of the glories of Death because of their crazy antics, Ninija accepts that it is his white ghost fear which drives him to live in this ruffian way.

‘White fella, he no honey-drip of respect for anything except him money and him power, him bottles of nectar and him shiny needles.’

As she bends and mixes herself with the Earth in the blue Moonlight, covered in the star cape of the night Sky, she longs for the time when white-fella is able to stand still and black with her in the very centre of the moment. It is Lands Business to forgive him and his blue-jeans boys, but first perhaps she must learn his life a little more, like Ginger did.

Burial FiresShe quickly clambers out of the deep slick-sided hole, clutching her coolamon with its emu clan paint ready to use. She scoots back like roo along the track with the emus at her heels. The Burial Fires are still burning high, her people singing the emu song joyfully. She glances over to Ninija Rock and Lumaluma, and feels his pain and loss.

She knows now that she must tolerate Lumaluma, embrace his ways, and learn about his needs. He has so skillfully, using thinking ways, found a way to get into her and her straightbacks, so now she must find a heart way to get behind his white smoke screen. She must find a way to harmonise the ‘Here’ and ‘Now’ of her Lands with the ‘Then’ and ‘There’ of new Lands that he has discovered.

She reaches the bottom of the casuarina tree and straps her coolamon firmly around her hips with kangaroo climbing the casuarinacarrying straps. Then she reaches up high and pulls herself up to the lower boughs. Story climbs up with her, up beside the wrinkles of bark and the sharp fragrance of resin, and soon she is beside her Ginger.

His black flesh is free of covers, his skin cleaned of Lumaluma’s city and oiled with eucalyptus by the bijada men to make Ninja’s paint flow smoothly. She assumes her role of ritualist, deftly making emu beak and feather marks along his thin chest and abdomen, and long straight stripes down the length of his wasted legs. She easily turns him over to paint the shaggy plumage along his shoulder blades and buttocks.

clan linesThen as the paint across his back sets, she quickly cuts her thumb with her sharp cutting axe, and lets her blood drip into the remaining paint. She mixes it in vigorously.

‘Blood strong as spirit to Ninija, her people.”

She turns him back and looks at the detail of his face as she gently closes his lips together. Then she places the piece of carved emu bone the men have prepared for her to wedge it shut. It is then that she can feel his Spirit rushing along the River of Stars, getting closer and closer to her.

‘Ginger, bijada boy, him step back into him Lands.’

She uses her long thumb to smudge the horizontal curves along his cheeks, and again for the stripes down the preparing the bodylength of his long forehead. For the jaw strap she kneels tall, leaning over him, and firmly uses both thumbs starting from the centre, tracing perfectly his strong jaw, and on down to join the collar bone. For the marks down the sides of his nose she uses two long index fingers, working together. Finally, his swollen eyelids are painted with large dots. And so it is done. He is ready.

From Ginger son’s platform she can see the Burial Grounds marked out with their Fires, and her people milling around excitedly. Gina knows that the painting is finished and comes darting along the pathway back to the casuarina. She is still too small to climb, so Ninija lowers herself down and helps her little mother up to Ginger-father. Gina is all quiet joy at having grandmother and father together. She trembles with excitement at being allowed so close to the Sky Heroes and the flapping jabaroos on constant guard. They will only allow those of the correct spiritual rank close to the top canopy of the sacred tree.

3 generations togetherEventually they climb on to the platform. Three generations together. Gina touches her Ginger-father for the first time as Ninija touches her, the spiritual current flowing between them all, and back to their ancestors and the very first desert peoples. Ninija talks inside, carefully obeying the Laws.

‘We will help Lumaluma back on to the right path Gina. This is the Lands story way. This serious Land’s Business, and Gina and Ginger will help.’

Gina smiles and carefully lies on her back by Ginger’s side, close to him, looking into the Sky world with him.

Ninija looks out over the Lands in the direction of Lumaluma’s city, and the telephone box and Mortuary House. She and her people must accept their new white-fella ways for the time being, but then later give them gifts of the ancient tried-and-tested Laws of the Universe and of innate goodness later. White-fella is simply the red landsbehaving very badly, and Ninija is beginning to understand exactly why.

‘I hear him Ginger spirit speeding back here. And I hear Lumaluma waking. I must go to him Gina.’

Gina stays close to her Ginger-father, sleeping a little with him under the stars until they go out. Then she climbs down as the heat of Sun starts to build up, leaving the cleaning work of his bones to continue.

sleeping under the stars


Moment 10: Day 3-Trespasser.