During the course of the last century no other Aboriginal object has excited as much conjecture, been more desired or commanded a higher price than the tjurunga of Central Australia. (Jones 1995) 1

To have grown up with Tjurunga, bullroarers and the other objects collected in 1933 as ever present curiosities, even toys, was a privilege that is now tempered with a feeling of unease. In our family these objects were the subject of fascination but they were not prized and were never on display like trophies. They were simply there - on shelves in cupboards even in the garage. They were mementos of another time and of a journey that was part of my father's story. There were no restrictions over their use. I played with them. I threw the boomerangs, whirled the bullroarers and brandished the nulla-nulla. I reproduced the patterns incised on the tjurungas by scratching them into slate and making my own objects of mystery and power. 2 As these objects have increased in significance, it is now to my shame that I split one of the bullroarers when I was using it as part of a ceremony. The string broke and it flew off and hit a tree.

The size of this collection is insignificant compared to that of T.G.H Strehlow, now housed in The South Australian Museum in Adelaide and the Strehlow Research Foundation in Alice Springs. However, many of the issues surrounding the custody of this collection apply to the objects that form part of The Flight of Ducks .

Hugh and Maurice were willing to do the met readings, in return for my offer of sharing any booty in the way of churingas, artefacts etc that I managed to collect. (FOD0517.html)

They gathered round and stared so I kept them interested with the movie camera while Murch did a few quick sketches. Then we started to trade for weapons using a little flour, tea and sugar for money and in a surprisingly short time we had quite a good collection. Using signs and pigeon English we managed to get on pretty well. Most of this had to be done without Hezekiel who seemed rather nervous and went into his shell.(FOD0094.html)

The others employed the evening taking in churingas made of wood from the Ngalia for a little tea, flour and sugar.(FOD0123.html)

The natives brought in many lizards and churingas of wood during the day and we took some photos of the family life. Larnach and Murch did a good trade in churingas of stone, a slate like stone, a skull and some digging sticks. (FOD0582.html)

We got some good photos of the natives today and yet another skull and a few churingas, water carriers, death bones and such like.) (FOD0616.html)

I got one of the old men across in the evening to see if his interpretation of my churingas was the same as the one I got from the wild ones. To my surprise he agreed exactly on all but one small point, where I could easily have misunderstood. That settles their truthfulness for good. (FOD0647.html)

Notes and References

  1. Jones, Phillip `Objects of Mystery and Concealment": a History of Tjurunga Collecting in Politics of the Secret ed Anderson, Chris, Oceania Monograph 45 P. 67.

  2. Most children I know/knew do this and have secret ceremonies. It is not my intention here to suggest that these Tjurunga had some form of control over me or my childhood activities. There was one small amulet-like object which I had fashioned out of slate with tjurunga designs which I believed protected me. I wore it (for nearly 7 years) around my neck on a leather thong until it fell off and I lost it when I was about 16.

    (CC) reserved S.Pockley Feb 1995 Flight of Ducks 466 mail