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SPEAR STRAIGHTENING CEREMONY

In the Dreamtime a group of Pintubi men went out hunting. They made camp near the secret cave site of Mitukatjirri, south-east of Kintore in the Western Desert. In the far distance they could see another camp fire and knew the people were not of their own skin group. So they sent a messenger over to talk to them and find out their skin group and why they were camping on Pintubi land without permission.

The messenger came back and reported that the intruders were from the Tjikari area further north, and that some of the local Pintubi women were already camping with them. Immediately the hunters prepared to attack. They dispersed throughout the bush to search for the thin pliant saplings suitable for making traditional fighting spears and brought them back to the camp fire for the special preparation required. About 70 saplings were gathered altogether. These were laid flat on the ground so that the crooked saplings could be easily seen, after which they were held over the fire to slightly warm them so that they could be straightened. Then one end was whittled down to a razor sharp point. Finally they were tested for weight and balance.

Meanwhile a spy from the other camp had crept over to see what was happening, and he quickly reported back that the Pintubi hunters were getting ready to fight. Immediately the Tjikari people made similar preparations for battle.

The combatants met at a place called Ilyingaugau not far from Kintore and a fierce fight took place. Losses were heavy on both sides, but eventually the intruders retreated. They agreed not to return to the country again and not to entice the Pintubi women away.

In the ceremony of the spear straightening each performer dances with a bundle of spears, which are very thin and lightweight. The song and dance cycles tell of the arrival of the intruders, selection and preparation of saplings, whittling to a point sharp enough to enter a body and kill, and the eventual battle and retreat of the intruders.

In this painting the artist has depicted the rows of spears lying flat on the ground.

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