Friday, August 15, 2008


Yesterday we happened upon a couple of young aborigines. They were pleased with the big blue prawn they’d caught at the nearby waterhole. They smiled. Unsullied by age or the influence of modern living their teeth were beautiful. We smiled back.

From our vantage point today we can feel it. We can hear it too, the silence of sixty thousand years. As far as the eye can reach the altar cloth of earth spreads out into a haze of eucalypt and smoke. Apart from the fires of lightning man the landscape is barely changed.

Behind us are their galleries. On the walls are layers of ochred art, most of it within reach and under the sandstone overhang. There are human figures and animals, even a Thylocene. Many appear to relate stories, probably dreamtime stories. Some appear in inaccessible, even impossible places. We wonder if these are derived from a different epoch or are they created a scaffold of bush poles? At our feet are the pocks of their palettes. These are conical ochre grinding holes, each as deep as its age. Their pestles are nowhere to be seen, all probably souvenired and gracing someone’s museum or lounge room.

At the back of “Big Bill’s” nearby cave is the deep litter of ages; bones, ashes and charcoal, and flints. On the wall Bill has stencilled his hand and has drawn, in ochre, the outlines of a pearling lugger; even put a name on the boat. Someone has drawn a line in the dust to indicate a future archaeological dig. In the topmost layer we see the sawn bones and bottle tops. At the foot of the slope …

half buried in the sand
two burnt out hulks rust
a Ford, and a Holden.

by Barry L Smith
Hamilton, New Zealand

No comments: