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Mala and Kurpannga

Mala Jukurrpa (Hare Wallaby Dreaming) by Jimija Jungarrayi Spencer

Mala Jukurrpa (Hare-wallaby Dreaming)
Jimija Jungarrayi Spencer

While the Carpet Snake people were camped at the waterhole on the south-eastern part of Uluru, a party of hare-wallabies, the Mala, left their camp in the country north-west of Mount Liebig and travelled to Uluru in order to put their young boys through ceremonies which would make them men. The route the Mala took is now a line of bare rock on the north-western corner.

The Mala women and children set up their own camp; each day while the ceremonies were going on they went out to search for edible seeds, berries and small game. They gathered plenty of fruit and cooked it for the evening meal. One old Mala man did not take part in the ritual. He was sent to watch the women, to make sure no-one came near the secret ceremonies. These matters were the sacred men's business, and women were compelled to keep away or the power of the Ancestral Spirits would be broken.

The young boys were guarded by the old men, and the actual rituals were performed on a hard patch of ground, which was transformed into the back wall of a long, cylindrical cave on the side of Uluru. This cave is absolutely forbidden to women, who were not even allowed to look in that direction when passing.

While the Mala ceremony was proceeding, the Wintalyka or Mulga-seed men of Kikingkura in the Petermann Ranges, sent their messenger, the bellbird Panpanpanala, to Uluru to invite the Mala people to a ceremony and ask them to bring material for decorations with them so that they could use some for body designs. The Mala people were angry at this request and sent back some white ash and a discourteous reply.

The Mulga-seed men were furious and urged their sorcerers, their knowledgeable medicine men who knew the greatest secrets and had the power to communicate with the spirits, to devise a revenge. The medicine men created a malevolent giant spirit dingo called Kurpannga, and sent him to Uluru. Kurpannga had the appearance of a dingo with very little hair. His teeth were savagely sharp and the songs of the medicine men filled him with the urge to fight and kill strangers.

When Kurpannga reached the Mala camp it was the hot midday; all the Mala people were asleep, except the old kingfisher woman, Lunba, who kept watch. She saw the movement of Kurpannga and gave the alarm.

Kurpannga, however, crept up to the camp and with his ferocious teeth he killed two men. The rest of the Mala escaped. The Mala men managed to save their sacred emblems and then the Mala fled eastward with the young men and with the kingfisher woman.

As with the story of the Kuniya and Liru, the camps of the mythical people, their battles and their deeds were transformed into boulders, clefts and natural features of Uluru at the close of the Tjurpa. The main camp of the Mala women and children is now a large cave in the north-western corner of Uluru. The erosion patterns of the cliff face represent the transformed features of the women. The men carried out sacred ceremonies on the northern and north-western sides of Uluru. A long, curving line of caves in a large eroded area were once the young men lying on the ground, being decorated by the old Mala men. A dark water stain on the rock face was the bark brush used to paint ceremonial designs.

Pitjantjatjara-Yangkuntjatjara, Central Australia


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