Ali Cobby Eckermann
Head hair has important value in Aboriginal culture. In my language it is called mangka.
In old family photos, many men and women wore dreadlocks.This would have resulted from living ‘close to the earth’, often a windswept landscape. Human hair was woven, as was dog fur, to make puturu, ‘hair string’, an effective type of rope. The hair was rolled on the thigh, to make strands.These strands were then plaited, to make a stronger rope. Sometimes the women utilised traditional methods of spinning; a hand held spindle was used.
String belts would be used to carry bush tucker, like lizards. Thick coils of hair, called manguri, would be used by the women, to carry their coolamons. Some people wore hair bands, on their heads. Hair string is also used in ceremony.
I felt like celebrating when I received this email recently, from a friend in Sydney. It reads ‘A lock of hair has helped scientists to piece together the genome of Australian Aborigines and rewrite the history of human dispersal around the world. DNA from the hair demonstrates that indigenous Aboriginal Australians were the first to separate from other modern humans, around 70,000 years ago. This challenges current theories of a single phase of dispersal from Africa.
An international team of researchers published their findings in the journal Science.
While the Aboriginal populations were trailblazing across Asia and into Australia, the remaining humans stayed around North Africa and the Middle East until 24,000 years ago. Only then did they spread out and colonise Europe and Asia, but the indigenous Aborigines had been established in Australia for 25,000 years. Australian Aborigines therefore have a longer claim to the land in which they now live than any other population known.
Well I say ‘here here! Or should I say ‘hair hair!’ Aboriginal people have adamantly and always disputed the ‘African conspiracy theory’. We know our strong connection to our Land!
Hair also holds a significant role in our grieving process. When a loved one passes away, we cut our hair. This is a respectful process, and lets other people know of one’s loss. Grief can get trapped; this process can also relieve some of the grief.
The hair is often burned. We are carefully not to leave our hair lying around, as others may use it for ilpinytji, to cast spells, especially the ‘love smitten man’. The magic is strong, never doubt that! It can
make you do things you don’t really want to do. Be careful, be very careful!
hey pretty woman
you love me hey
hey pretty woman
you drink ’em mine
you marry me hey
sit down long time
chuck in all you got
yarn up stick fight
pass out pass away