Nardika Learns to Make a Spear
Magabala Books, 2001
5-8yrs, Lower Primary, Primary, Upper Primary
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- Arnhem Land (N.T.)
- Burarra people (N135) (NT SD53-03)
- Glossaries and vocabularies
- Maningrida (Central Arnhem Land NT SD53-02)
- Parent and child
- Social life and customs
A map of the Northern Territory initially invites the reader into this story’s location. Maningrida is a remote Aboriginal community in Arnhem Land, located in far north Australia. The book’s title, ‘Nardika Learns to Make a Spear’, perfectly captures the purpose of this book—to detail how a father teaches his son to make a spear and use it safely. The Burarra language for items and practices feature throughout. Step by step the father instructs and guides his son, initially to gather a knife and an axe to cut the tree limb. Minute details of the process follow as Nardika closely watches his father, Bulany, creating an expertly designed spear. For example, Bulany uses sand to protect his hands when handling the heated spear and a special technique to scrape splinters from the wood.
The illustrations detail the full process of spear-making. The full page illustration on the left shows Bulany demonstrating while his son watches. Opposite there is a smaller image detailing the particular technique. Meanwhile the text explains when a particular practice might be too dangerous for a young person
Finally, his father demonstrates how to throw the spear then follows an excited young Nardika at last hurling his spear. What a thrill when he sees the shaft of his spear shaking with vibrations – he has caught a fish! Father and son are happy and observe the young boy will be a great hunter when he grows up.
Further cultural details follow when father and son return to camp. For example, Nardika is not allowed to eat the fish as it is his ‘first catch’. The fish must be shared with other families. The story concludes with evening stories about the land and Dreaming. A Burarra wordlist which relates to the making of the spear and Burarra skin names for males and females appears at the back of the book.
Chris Fry comes from Maningrida in Central Arnhem Land. His language is Anbarra-Burarra and his cultural group is Burarra. ‘Nardika Learns to Make a Spear’ is the first time he has created illustrations for a book although he has painted since he was a young child. He has written another picture book, ‘Djomi Dream Child’, illustrated by Delphine Sarago-Kendrick.
- Meet the Remote Indigenous Community where a few thousand people use 15 Different languages. 5 December 2018 https://theconversation.com/meet-the-remote-indigenous-community-where-a-few-thousand-people-use-15-different-languages-107716
- Australian Museum. Prongs of a fishing spear https://australian.museum/learn/cultures/atsi-collection/australian-archaeology/prongs-of-an-indigenous-fishing-spear-pre-1884/
- Ep.2 ‘Night Spear’. Aboriginal Hunting and Spearfishing in Remote Australia – Fishing the Wild NT https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gmCX7R-W4c
- redmap. Fishing for Centuries: Indigenous Fishing by Dr Melissa Nursey-Bray https://www.redmap.org.au/article/fishing-for-centuries-indigenous-fishing/