Monday, December 11, 2006

Wollumbin. Great Fighting Chief of the Mountains.


It should be noted that my tribe has absolutely nothing to do with real Australian aboriginal tribes. The only thing aboriginal is the name “Wollumbin” Which does mean “Great fighting chief of the mountains.”
Tom Adams

Wollumbin was awake!

Well, to tell the truth, he was barely awake. He rolled over in bed to cuddle up to the pleasing form of Mrs Wollumbin but she was not there. That woke him a bit more. The sound of her bustling around in the kitchen made him realise that she was getting breakfast.

Lifting himself to his feet he yawned and scratched as he look a round him as if seeing the room for the first time. He decided he would go out and sit under his thinking tree, which was growing, beside his gunya. He liked to sit there of a morning previewing the coming days events and putting them in chronological order while eating a leisurely breakfast. Mrs Wollumbin would often have breakfast with him there and that made the time even more pleasant.

Wandering out through his front door he saw an old gentleman sitting in his favourite spot, under his favourite tree. A scowl crossed his face but Wollumbin was nothing if not hospitable. It would never occur to him to be rude to this elderly gentleman and, if that meant surrounding his favourite place for once, so be it.

He went and squatted in front of the old man.

“Gooday.” He greeted the visitor.

” ‘day..” Was the reply.

Wollumbin studied the figure in front of him. He was, as already stated, elderly but looked lean and fit for his age. There was an impish grin on his weathered face.

“Pinch your favourite spot did I?” He asked.

“Don’t worry about it.” Wollumbin said graciously. ” You are more that welcome. How about some breakfast.”

“I would appreciate that.”

Wollumbin called towards the house, “A visitor for breakfast.”

“I saw him.” Was the reply. Wollumbin knew that, having seen the visitor, Mrs Wollumbin would automatically cater for him. As he was thinking this, she appeared in the doorway and walked over to them with a huge breakfast. She sat and served them and they enjoyed a hearty meal together. The only conversation was thing like, “Would you like some more…” Or “Please pass…”

When they had finished eating they sat in satisfied silence for some minutes to allow the food to do its job. Wollumbin believed that eating, then jumping up and doing something vigorous, hampered the food in its purpose of building and refreshing the body.

While they were enjoying the time Wollumbin noticed a whole lot of marks on the ground covering the entire space in front of the huts that constituted his immediate tribe. There were always some of them off on walkabout or hunting or fishing and they were away for weeks at a time if the fancy took them. Wollumbin’ s village was set out in a circle with a huge area within the circle for the passing trade or the carrying on of the daily activities of the tribe. Now the whole are was covered in strange and colourful squiggles, lines, circles and the like.

Standing to his feet for a better look Wollumbin was amazed to see that a picture was forming. By now Mrs Wollumbin was standing beside him.

“Look,” he said pointing, ” I can see the Rainbow Serpent.”

“Yes,” Agreed his wife. They were discovering new things every time they looked. Finally Wollumbin understood. ” It’s the story of creation.” He said in amazement. Turning to the old man he asked, “Did you do this?”

“Yes I did.” was the reply.

“It is very good.” Wollumbin, walked around the drawing and returned to where he started.

“It is really beautiful.” Mrs Wollumbin said in awe.

“Thank you, ” The old man was obviously pleased with the effect he had made. “Unfortunately you are in a minority. Most places I go they throw me out. They claim that I am a witch and the my, what I call, pictures are evil spells.”

“I’ll tell you this for nothing,” Wollumbin said, ” Anyone who cannot appreciate your work doesn’t deserve it. You are welcome to stay here as long as you like. Make this your home if you so wish. I can’t understand why anyone would throw you out.”

He was to find out.

At that moment Nirinji the news carrier walked into the area. He preferred to live out in the bush a bit where it as quieter. He stopped dead in his tracks. A look of horror came over his face. He looked to Wollumbin and rushed over and threw himself onto the ground in front of him.

“Quick chief, ” he gasped, “some witch has cast a spell on us. Look at all the strange marks on the ground.” Seeing the old man he continued, ” Is this the witch doctor you have called in to break the spell?”

“No, “was the calm reply, ” He is the fellow who made the marks.”

“Then he’s a witch.” Nirinji’s eyes were rolling in his head and he didn’t which way to look at any one time.

“No he’s not.” Wollumbin tried to calm him. ” He’s a ..... What are you exactly?”

“The old man scratched his head. ” Don’t know really, I have never had a title, or a name for that matter, unless you can call ’ Go away’ or, “Scram” names or titles.”

“Well, lets see.” Wollumbin said thoughtfully, ” What do you call this that you do?”

“I call it ‘Art’. Stands for ‘Achieving Remarkable Themes’.”

“All right,” Wollumbin said with finality, ” If what you do is ‘art’ then you are an Artist. That is your title and that will be your name. Artist.”

“Artist.” The old man repeated, ” I like that. Thank you great chief, I am ‘artist’ who are you please?”

Wollumbin introduced himself and everyone else. The old man rose to his feet and limped into bush muttering to himself happily. Wollumbin, satisfied with a job well done, sat himself under his tree to relax for a while.

The next few days were quiet enough. The usual petty squabbles that Wollumbin, as chief, had to sort out. Hunting, fishing and the like made the days pass fairly quickly.

Artist was busy. With the help of other members of the tribe, he built himself a gunya and settled in. He would wander away and gather coloured clays and other strange things. He would beg the fur from captured game and tie it to small sticks and call them ‘brushes’. He took a flat stone from the creek and called it his ‘paint mixer’. He worked hard for several days until he had a large collection of pots and things that seemed to clutter his hut and surrounding area in mad profusion.

Wollumbin enjoyed the company of Artist. They would spend hours talking about the bush and the animals therein. The Dream time. He was an avid listener as the old man seemed to have an endless list of stories to tell.

But then it started.

One morning Wollumbin went to sit under his tree for breakfast and was appalled to find a handprint right in the middle of it. He couldn’t believe it. Everyone knew that that was his favourite spot and no-one would dare defile it with a drawing of anything else. There was only one person who could have done this.

Wollumbin stood in front of the mess around Artist’s hut and called him out.

“Did you put a hand print on my thinking tree?” He asked angrily.

“I certainly did.” Was the calm reply.

“Why?” Ask Wollumbin.

“Because it needed it.” The old man answered and turned and walked into his hut.

Wollumbin was flabbergasted. “Because it needed it? ” How could he argue with that? He asked himself.  Himself replied, “You can’t really, but he has an enormous cheek. But, I guess, an artist must be temperamental.”

When Wollumbin clamed down he decided that it didn’t look too bad, so he would put up with it. Time would erase it anyway.

Then Nirinji came to him.

“This is no good.” He said.

“What’s no good?” Wollumbin asked.

Nirinji showed him his spear. There was a panting of a snake wending it’s way around the handle with the head was resting on the blade.

” What’s wrong with that,” Wollumbin inquired, ” It looks pretty authentic to me.”

“Yeah, me too,” Nirinji winged, “You know how much I hate wiggley on the ground things, I’m frightened to touch it.”

“No problem,” said Wollumbin the solver of problems, “Stick in on your wall as a work of art and make yourself another spear. Simple.”

Nirinji went away mumbling all sorts of dire threats against the body of their resident artist.

Wollumbin went home that night and was startled to see two huge shells, one on each side of his doorway.

“What’s this?” he asked Mrs Wollumbin.

“Shells.” she answered rather abruptly.

“I can see that they are shells, but why have we got them on our wall?”

“Well, first of all, Artist said that the wall looked bare. He said that it was crying out for a shell, so, rather than let the wall cry, I allowed him to paint the first shell. Then he said that the first one was lonely so he painted the second one. Actually, they don’t look too bad.”

“Not too bad, “Wollumbin yelled, “It will give me nightmares to see two dirty great shells glaring down at me every time I look around. Tell him to take them off again, tomorrow.”


The next day when he got home the shells were gone and in their place were two huge rainbow serpents.

“That’s even worse,” Wollumbin complained, ” Tell him to get rid of them and give me my wall back.”

“You tell him, ” was the curt rejoinder, “I had to put up with him complaining all day about cretinous people who didn’t appreciate fine art. You want them off, you tell him.”

Wollumbin decided to live with the serpents.

It was bad enough that, wherever he went he found evidence of the passing of Artist. Every tree on the way to his favourite fishing hole had pictures of birds, fish, insects or other things he could not work out. But Artist would paint pictures on the main yard showing stories from the dreamtime. This was good in its way but the trouble was that he would paint one picture here, the next in the sequence over the other side of the yard, the next somewhere else. If you wanted to see the story you had to walk back and forth across the open area. Finally Wollumbin could stand no more and invited Artist home for tea so that he sort thing out.

After they had enjoyed Mrs Wollumbin’s excellent cooking, they sat out under the thinking tree, the three of them. Mrs Wollumbin came to make sure that Wollumbin didn’t say or do anything to hurt the old man. She needn’t have worried, Wollumbin was also wanting to resolve the issue of the art saturation without upsetting the old man.

Carefully he explained the problem to Artist. He tried to be as gentle as possible.

Artist said, “So, nobody is happy with the art?”

“That’s not true,” Wollumbin explained, “Everybody loves your work, they just don’t love it all, over their homes, weapons and kids.”

“So, I suppose you are going to kick me out.”

“Never.” Wollumbin was emphatic. He was rewarded to see the smile come over the old man’s face.

“I have been giving this a lot of through.” Wollumbin started. “I think I have come up with an answer that will suit everybody. First of all, your picture stories that you paint.”

“What’s wrong with them?”

“Absolutely nothing except that they are all over the place and done on the ground. In no time at all they are rubbed out by the passing feet and I just happen to think it is a shame to see them lost.”

“Well, what do you propose?” Artist asked.

“Get the kids to collect large pieces of bark. Do each of your pictures on one piece then tie them together in sequence so that, all you have to do is flick over a piece of bark and the next picture will be there in the correct order. We can tie them together with a piece of hide to stop them from falling a part. I think you should call them ‘Comic Book’ because they are a novel idea. What do you think?”

“Artist was getting visibly excited. “Yes, yes, ” he exclaimed, ” And they would last forever. I’ll do it.”

“Good, now about the art all over the scenery. Once again, in time, we will lose them so I am proposing that you go into the mountains at the back of the camp and paint all over the caves there. That way they will last because they wont be exposed to the weather.”

“But how would I look after myself?” Asked Artist. “ I can’t look hunt or fish or anything.”

“Wait here.”

Wollumbin walked away and, a few minutes later, returned with a young lad and a woman in tow.

“Artist,” He said, “I would like you to meet, ‘Young and restless’, and his mother, ‘Had Enough’.

Artist solemly shook hands with the both.

“Now,” Wollumbin exclaimed, “Had Enough has a problem, don’t you?”

Had Enough stepped forward and pointed an accusing finger at the lad.

:”He will not stay home and it is your fault Wollumbin.”

Artist asked, “Why is it Wollumbin’ s fault?”

“He is a greag hunter,”  Had Enough replied, “and this whelp wants to be as good if not better.”

“One day he will be.” Wollumbin declared.

“What good is that to me?” Wailed had Enough, “ I never see the lad, he is always out in the bush practicing his hunting. I am in a constant state of worry, I don’t know if he is alive or dead or whatever.”

“So.” Wollumbin stood and struck his most official pose, “This is what I have decided. ‘Young and Restless;, you will go and live with Artist. You will ensure that he always has plenty of tucker. While you are hunting, you will also look for more caves so that Artist never runs out of places to paint. You can hunt all the time. What do you think?”

Both Artist and Young and Restless nodded their heads.

“But.”  Stated Wollumbin.

:There’s always a ‘but’.” Young and Restless moaned.

“But,” Wollumbin reiterated, “There is a couple of conditions. First, you will also ensure that your mother has sufficient food and second, one day in every seven, you will come home and spend the day with your mother. Now, does that suit everybody?”

Everybody agreed.

Wollumbin sat. “Artist, whenever you feel like a break, your Gunya will always be there for you, untouched. O..K?”

Artist, “O.K Boss, O.K.”

That night Wollumbin was sitting under his thinking tree. He was to have his own art Gallery , and it was to be the biggest gallery ever. His people were happy and peace reigned once again.

“Some days are worth getting up for. “ He thought………………..Yes.

Wollumbin was satisfied.

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