Tangkuinyendi Yabarra translates as Dreaming Light in the Kaurna language. The Kaurna Aboriginal people are the traditional owners and cultural custodians of the Adelaide plains area.
This architectural projection and placemaking project is a cultural and artistic collaboration between Yellaka, illuminart, SA Museum and the State Library of South Australia, commissioned for the Adelaide Fringe 2016 and 2017. A Kaurna shield held in the collection of the South Australian Museum was the starting point for the project, enabling the team to collaborate in telling old stories in new ways.
The cultural symbols and rituals carefully interwoven within the architectural projections represent a way of living and cultural beliefs that are thousands of years old.
Kuri Palti – Cyclic Dances of the Tribes
The dancers would be divided into five distinct totem classes. The greater body comprises about twenty-five young men, including five or six boys, all painted in white ochre from shoulder down to the hips with five white stripes rising from their breasts; their faces also with white perpendicular lines.They had bunches of gum leaves tied round the legs just above the knee which, as they stamped about, made a loud switching noise. In their hands they held a Cuttah, or Wirri, and gum leaves. Each tribe had its own Kuri Palti – dance – and each had its own variation.
The Palyertatta is a singular element made of two pieces of sticks placed cross ways, and bound together by the Manyna – string made of human hair with emu feathers attached at each of the four ends. The dancers would sometimes have it stuck sideways upon their head while dancing and others, in the most wizard-like manner, would wave it side to side before him, corresponding with the action of his head and legs.
The Koonteroo is a long spear with a bunch of emu feathers hung suspended at the top, and all down the spear the Manyna was wound. The dancer held the Koonteroo – spear and feathers – with both hands behind his back. but occasionally altered the position, and waved it to the right and left over the other dancers.
Kurrubakka – Bark Vessel
The Kurrubakka, which is commonly known today as the Coolamon, were used mainly by the women of the tribes. The Kurrubakka were made of the boughs of the Karra – river red gum trees – and often carried upon the head accompanied with a digging stick used for gathering Mai – vegetable foods – and Paru – meat foods. A Kurrubakka would be used to pull away sand to get to a Pundonya – Goanna in its hole in the ground – and would be used to carry Barti – Witchetty Grubs back for the people. One of the most important uses was for carrying and sharing Yaitya Kauwe – fresh water. Water also carries ceremony, which is very powerful. The tribes, clans and bands of people depended upon this knowledge heavily as the women would often provide more than half of the food and fresh water each day.
Maitidli Ngangki – Women Providing Food
The old and young women would go out during the cool part of the summer days to gather Mai – vegetable and fruit foods. The Nganki Burka – Senior Women – would teach the young women how to read the natural signals to ensure that Mai was obtained. The digging stick would help with the sometimes heavy labour involved in locating, digging and obtaining an abundance of food which would be shared amongst members of the family clan and tribe.
Munaintya Warra – Dreaming Talk
During times of teaching the young people would listen to the senior people as they would tell stories about our totem designs, our song lines, our bloodline relationship to sacred places and memories of people from across the generations. Knowledge would be transferred through Dreaming Talk. This was sitting down to listen, look and feel through ways of understanding, and beginning to know and gain authority through the teachings of our ancestors. Our stories lay down the rules for living in the natural lore of our world. Our peoples’ cultural movements are held in these ritual symbols that are inscribed and live in this ancient landscape; a cultural practice which is the oldest living surviving culture in our world today.
Wodliparri – Hut River (The Milky Way)
Wodliparri – the Hut River known as the Milky Way – is a large river with reeds growing along the banks. Our ancestors have their home along the river, in the Wodli – Huts alongside the Parri. The dark spots in the Milky Way are lagoons where great creation ancestral beings lived. If Yura – the Serpent – would appear a great abundance of water would be created. This cosmic landscape holds many stories of creation and how the landscape below was created. These ancient beings were once upon the land forming ranges and rivers as they moved across the country in the ancient time of dreaming creation.
Purle – Stars
The stars have always been guides for our people, if you listen well to the stories from the old people across the generations and you remember what was said you can use this information to find certain stars that show you what is coming and how you must prepare. There are many stories in the stars and we see them as we see the landscape we travel upon, and where we journey to, sit with our ancestors in the Wodli – Huts along side the Parri – one of the rivers in the Milky Way.
Mankamankarrana – The Pleiades or Seven Sisters Constellation
We considered the above cosmic landscape to be ordered the same way as below on the earth and that the celestial bodies above obeyed the same lore as humans and animals on the earth. The Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, was known to us as Mankamankarrana which is a group of girls who are gathering Mai – roots and vegetable foods – which can be seen around them in the sky.
Kari – Emu
The Emu in the Sky indicates seasonal times of the year. It shows you when you can hunt for emu and when you must not. If the emu is up full in the sky then you may be able to hunt for emu, but if not and the emu is low in Wodliparri – The Milky Way – then you know that they are nesting and you must not hunt for them when they are bringing forth the next generation.
Tinnunyarra – Orion the Hunters
Tinnunyarra was what we called the Constellation Orion who are a group of young men who hunted emu, kangaroo and other Paru – meat game – on the celestial plain called Womma. The mother of the Tinnunyarra was a red star we called Madletaltarni.
We have many stars that tell us the change of season is coming. The appearance of Parna in the south let us know that waterproof huts had to be built as the heavy winter rains will be coming soon. Springtime we call Wiltutti and was under the influence of the Wiltu – Eagle Constellation. Summer, the hot time, was under the influence of Woltatti which was the bush turkey Wolta.
Parnda – Limestone
There once was a significant men’s cultural lore site Tarnda Kanya – Kangaroo Rock – where the men would gather for ceremony and rights of passage for the young. This sacred rock was mined and sits today in the foundations of all the significant institutions of the incoming culture, such as Parliament House, Government House and the Holy Trinity Church.
Meyu Nukkondi Paru – Men Hunting
The men would often track Nanto – Grey Kangaroo, and Kurka – Kangaroo Rat to provide Paru – meat food – for their families. The hunters were taught the art of tracking by the senior men and were encouraged to use all their natural senses during the hunt. When a hunter took a kangaroo he would ensure all generations of the tribe received a particular portion that was shared according to traditional tribal custom; this was the natural lore. The hunters would never be wasteful or greedy for they knew, if they were, something may go wrong during their next hunt. You would never cross another hunter’s track and take his game knowingly. This would bring punishment as this was seen as breaking the law.
Mullabakka and Wokalte – Dry Bark Shields
These bark shields were used to defend culture, country and family. When other tribes from neighbouring groups would come into this tribal country unannounced, or at the wrong time of year, the tribes would collect Mullabakka and gather in strength to defend their woman and children. Each tribal clan had different designs on their shields and most were painted in red and white ochre and were used to deflect Uwinda – large spears – and the Wirri – throwing clubs.
Gadla – Fire
Fire is one of the most important elements used by the tribal clans of the Adelaide Plains people from the time of the first sunrise. It was used to manage, renew and keep the country clean. Fire is lore, it is a living totem design. Knowledge of fire and how it was used to burn off country was always managed by the senior men. Only they knew of its secrets; the young men would have to earn the right to know. Only when ready would information be entrusted to the young men. You would wait with respect to receive, never taking. This was part of Gadlawarra – Fire Talk, the oral knowledge of fire lore. The senior men would pass knowledge of the fire and its uses to the young men through song, story, dance and by visiting the places of hidden fire, which were seasonally burned for cultural and spiritual renewal practices for more than 2000 generations.
Tarndanyungga – Red Kangaroo Place
Tarnda is the Red Kangaroo. The tribal clans of the Adelaide Plains knew and followed the ancient lore of Tarnda before the process of colonisation began and the impact of a foreign law was felt. This was a time when the lore of Tarnda was respected and observed by all family clans as they all had responsibilities to practice their lore. The ancient river that runs through Adelaide has been dammed into a lake now known as the River Torrens, but it has another name which is older. Its first and original name is “Tarndaparri” – which translates as “Red Kangaroo River” – and areas on each side of the river have always been known as Tarndanyungga – Red Kangaroo Place – which was a place of gathering seasonally for lore practice. This Red Kangaroo is men’s lore and only men of knowledge and wisdom can speak for this. Today, we live in a world where new laws are created everyday, yet this lore has existed for 2000 generations and is only being heard now.