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Wooden spear, used in the 'Seven Sisters' performance at the 'Tracking Kultja' festival at the NMA in 2001


On display

Wooden spear, used in the 'Seven Sisters' performance at the 'Tracking Kultja' festival at the NMA in 2001

Object information


The Seven Sisters Songline travels from the west to the east across the far western and central deserts. The sisters are pursued by a man, Yurla, who is a shape shifter with transformative powers. Yurla becomes besotted by one of the sisters and pursues them endlessly in order to possess them. Today, this saga is visible in the Orion constellation and Pleiades star cluster as a constant reminder of the consequences of attempting to possess something through wrongful means.

In the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands the lustful man Yurla is known as Wati Nyiru, and the Seven Sisters ? the Minyipuru ? become the Kungkarangkalpa. Pursuing the sisters with obsessive dedication, southwards from Irawa Bore, Wati Nyiru reveals his conflicted character in a moment of self-realisation at Walinynga (Cave Hill), where he no longer recognises his own footprint. Here, as elsewhere, knowledge is transmitted in old and new ways. Inma, or performance, is the primary mode of knowledge transfer and holds the old traditions secure; and through ceramics the elders have found an imaginative way of representing both the Seven Sisters and the bush food into which Wati Nyiru transforms himself. (Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, NMA Press, 2017, p67)

This part of the songline begins at Irawa Bore near Wallara in the north, and extends to Alkara in South Australia. At the distinctive flat-topped mountain of Atila (Mount Conner), the sisters see Nyiru spying on them. They flee south to Witapula waterhole where they sing and splash. Frightened by Nyiru's sudden appearance, the sisters disappear underground and follow the subterranean waterways, surfacing at No. 3 Bore. But Nyiru is waiting for them, and they run south, past Mulga Park to Walinynga, where they build a spinifex shelter known today as Cave Hill. It is here that Wati Nyiru, hoping to approach the sisters 'proper way', attempts to control his desire by wrapping his excited member around his waist like a belt. But lust overcomes him, and the sisters escape from
the shelter through a small opening at the rear, and dance southwards past Kuli into other lands. (Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, NMA Press, 2017, p87)

Physical description

A cylindrical brown tecoma vine wooden spear, with a separate hardwood head sharpened to a point and attached to the shaft with kangaroo sinew and a small amount of spinifex resin. A reversed barb is also attached to the head with sinew and the shaft has some minor splits in it.

Physical description

On display at the National Museum of Australia.

Object information

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