Camels and Poison
Story:Papunya Tula artist Charlie Wallabi (Walapayi) Tjungurrayi recalled that while camping at Kukapanyu as a young man he came across the tracks of a drover’s camel. Sharpening his spear, he fitted it with barbs and followed the tracks. He found the camel near Wajaparni (Well 38) and speared it. Then he cut the meat into pieces with a stone knife and prepared it for cooking.
Walapayi cooked the meat and took some steaks to the camp of relatives nearby. Then he brought them back to where the camel had been cooked.
'So everybody had a share of meat. I grabbed myself a shoulder blade and the rest was for the others.'
After they’d feasted, his relatives kept travelling east. Walapayi and his nephew headed west towards the Canning Stock Route, in search of more camels.
Instead of camels, Walapayi and his nephew found the tracks of white men, horses and bullocks. They also found a can of tinned meat. After eating it, Walapayi’s nephew became deathly ill. The two men were convinced the meat had been deliberately poisoned.
'He felt so funny and he was shaking like he was cold and even his voice sounded funny. He couldn’t speak properly, he was lying down mumbling. He was feeling helpless. He couldn’t move so I start fixing him up with maparn [healing power]. I did all that work on him and then I made a big fire and left him, ’cos he was feeling cold.' (Charlie Wallabi (Walapayi) Tjungurrayi, 2007)
The next day Walapayi went hunting. As the meat was cooking.
'I heard a noise, from nowhere, going: "BOOOYI! BOOOYI! Here I am!" And I said to myself, "It’s a ghost coming! I left that man back there dead, poisoned. He’s come back alive as a ghost! He’s going to spear me!" I said to him, "There’s some meat in there, you can have the other half". So he went and got the leg, the ghost did.
And I asked him, "Are you alright?" And he answered me, "I’m OK. I’m really good and better". So he wasn’t a ghost. So we started to go together walking. So we walked all the way to Lurlur and I told all the men what happened. They thought I was alright, but I was really sick from eating that poison. It was law time and I couldn’t go next to the ladies because I was on my business. But the other bloke went and told the ladies: "We’ve eaten poison. I was dead. But my uncle Walapayi fixed me". Then all the men start singing to bring me out. Corroboree.' (Charlie Wallabi (Walapayi) Tjungurrayi, 2007)
According to Martumili artist Jeffrey James, boss drover Wally Dowling held his stockman, Ben Taylor, responsible for laying dingo baits on the stock route that led to the poisoning of Aboriginal people. Desert people believed that the baits had been deliberately laid in retaliation for their having hunted working camels.
'They were chucking poison baits on this Canning [Stock Route]. So this youngfella here, Walapayi, he pick up the meat, poison bait. Soon as [head drover] Wally Dowling hear that people nearly died, he kicked Ben Taylor out for a while: ‘Never do that. Never!’ He used to chuck poison to the people, you know. Well, Walapayi pick up the bait anyway, and he nearly died.' (Jeffrey James, 2007)
Media Creator:Clifford Brooks
Media date: 2007
Story Location: Wajaparni (Well 38)
Media Description:Charlie Wallabi (Walapayi) Tjungurrayi heals a patient with his maparn at Well 36.
Story contributor(s):Charlie Wallabi (Walapayi) Tjungurrayi, Jeffrey James
Art Centre(s): CSR Project
Media copyright: Clifford Brooks
Source: CSROH_12_Charlie Wallabi_Walapayi_Tjungurrayi
This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.