Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Aboriginal Dreaming - Tjukurrpa

Tjukurrpa (comprised of many individual Tjukurrpa) is the body of lore that imparts that knowledge. Some of these, such as the Wati Kutjara (2 Men), Minyma Tjuta (Many Women), Wati Marlu (Red Kangaroo) and Sand Goanna (according to the author1 the name is too sacred to present in his book), all of which pass throughout the entire desert region and occasionally beyond. Being the core of desert tradition Tjukurrpa expresses the larger spiritual and social dimension of the life of Aboriginal people. As it is the dominant traditional concept, touching all parts of existence imbuing it with strong motivation and meaning. In essence Tjukurrpa is part religion part history, and part moral and social charter. 'It is, in many respects, the conceptual vehicle through which people fulfill themselves, define their position and gain authority in society'1.  Tjukurrpa provides implicit prescription for environmental relations and explains the creation of the physical world. The intellectual and political basis of the people to the land is the Tjukurrpa (literally meaning 'to dream') and, 'in this metaphoric sense equates the surreal and other-worldly experiences of religion with the experience of dreams' (Cane, 2013).

Another function of the Tjukurrpa is as a corpus of religious narratives, songlines, creating an iconography of the desert, and explain and define its resources and the socio-political relationships of the people who use them. Examples are 2 narratives, a small part of the hundreds existing within and across the desert region. The particular details of these 2 narratives are not revealed in his book. The history of Wati Kutjara (2 Men) which relates to the travels of Two Men from the far north, beginning their journey as young boys who are uninitiated, to the south of the desert, arriving there as ancient heroic characters. They impart a kind of moral character to desert society, prince-like characters, generally doing well and informing social relationships and initiating procedures. The Red Kangaroo is more spectacular, being transformative and magical, travelling cyclically through the desert, touching the margins of the desert at each quadrant of the compass, teaching much about landscape, kinship, initiation and sacred ritual.

The longest and most extensive Tjukurrpa from the arid zone known to (Cane, 2013) are those of the Two Men, Red Kangaroo and Many Women. According to (Cane, 2013) these are in fact ancient maps connecting the best, most fertile parts of the desert such that if followed the people of the deserts can traverse the Australian deserts with comparative ease, though he suggests it is probably taking things too far to interpret these narratives as maps of early occupation.

Sources & Further reading

  1. Cane, Scott, 2013, First Footprints: The epic story of the first Australians, Allen & Unwin
  2. Scott Cane has included in his book, written as a companion to the ABC TV series of the same name, a number of stories from his days living among Aboriginal people in the desert and moving around with them.
Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 21/11/2013
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