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Aboriginal boy cutting bark disc
Title : Aboriginal boy cutting bark disc Aboriginal boy cutting bark disc
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Creator : Mountford, Charles P. (Charles Pearcy), 1890-1976, photographer
Source : PRG 1218/34/1261D
Place Of Creation : 1940
Date of creation : 1940
Format : Photograph
Catalogue record
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Copyright :

The Library received cultural clearance from the Ara Irititja Project, to display this image. Reproduction rights are owned by State Library of South Australia.
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Description :

An aboriginal boy, of Ernabella, cutting a bark disc from a tree for a spear game.

Spear games were common with Aboriginal children across Australia, as preparation for the hunting skills they would require as adults. Rushes and reeds were readily adapted to spears, or the children would make spears, gathering long stems from suitable bushes, straigthening and hardening the wood over the fire, stripping the bark, generally preparing a child-sized version of the adult weapon.

A variety of games were played all intended to enhance skills in aim and casting, and in dodging an incoming spear (as might be expected in a fight). Bark discs would be cut from trees, either circular or oblong, depending on the game. An oblong disc would bounce more irregularly and was the chosen target for older boys.

Anthroploogist Charles Mountford recorded:

'When the meal was finished the children started to play. The boys began the spear and disc game. Already some of them had made a number of short spears from a tecoma vine which was growing on the rocky walls of the gorge, while others had cut a disc of thick green bark, about the size of a dinner plate, from a nearby gum tree. The players then formed themselves into two groups and took up positions about fifteen yards apart on the floor of the gorge. As the disc was rolled backward and forward between them, each group in turn tried to spear the target as it passed. There did not seem to be any spirit of competition, either between the boys themselves or the groups; their enjoyment was gained from the success in spearing the bark disc. The game provided not only enjoyment, but training for the boys, for by it they acquired the quickness of eye and accuracy of aim that would be so essential to them in later life, when they, the boys of to-day, would be the hunters and food-gatherers of to-morrow, and the target not the rolling disc, but the quickly moving animals of the desert.' Mountford p. 34

In some areas a ball of fur-string and feathers would be produced providing an alternative type of target.

Coverage year : 1940
Place : Ernabella
Region : Flinders Ranges and Far North - Outback
Further reading :

The Australian Aboriginal heritage: an introduction through the arts edited by Ronald M. Berndt and E.S. Phillips Sydney: Australian Society for Education through the Arts in association with Ure Smith, 1978 pp. 65-70 Children's games by Susan Tod Woenne

Berndt, R. M. Some Aboriginal children's games in Mankind vol. 2 no. 9 October 1940 pp. 289-93

Haagen, Claudia Bush toys: Aboriginal children at play Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 1994 Chapter 4 Hunting and fighting games

Mountford, Charles P. Brown men and red sand: journeyings in wild Australia Sydney: A. & R., 1964 p. 34

Robertson, Ian D Sport and play in aboriginal culture - then and now Salisbury East, S.A.: Salisbury College of Advanced Education, 1975

Rockchild, Liesl Bush toys: a living history: a collection of toys from Eastern Arrernte Communities in Central Australia Alice Springs, N.T.: Liesl Rockchild Arts Management & Design, [1999]

Wallace, Phyl Children of the desert Melbourne: Thomas Nelson (Australia), 1973

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