Chapter 3: The Knowledge is in the Story
The Four-level Art
of Story telling
The construction of a Nhunggabarra law story is hugely sophisticated. In this painting Tex Skuthorpe explains the structure.
The figure in the centre and the core circle represent the first level, during which the children learn from the women.
The next circle is the second level, where the men prepare the boys for the walk out to the other communities. The pink represents the children and the footprints the first ceremony of initiation and the community coming to see them off.
The third circle is when the boys walk out to the other communities to experience firsthand their stories, ceremonies and languages. The circles of dots represent the communities and the U-shapes are all the different ways of communicating. The three yellow circles and the U-shapes inside are people teaching the boys the knowledge of how to keep all alive. The pink dots represent the young boys. The spirits they will meet during their journey are the figures along the edges and the bags they carry with them are at the bottom. The leaves represent all the things they are not allowed to kill; they have to rely on the different communities to keep them alive. The black footprints in the pink represent their return to their own community.
Those few men and women of the law totems, who have shown special abilities from childhood onwards, are now taught the fourth level; the section outside the third circle. They are taught individually to become wiringins. They learn how to change into their yurrdis; the four big figures in the corners of the painting and they are given a second yurrdi, represented by the snakes around the circle. The big black figures tell how they use their shadow sprits and dream spirits to travel both to the Warrambul and to places on Earth. The bags contain the tools they use for their ceremonies, such as the white crystals at the top of the painting.