wood carving

How to experience the indigenous culture in Uluru

 

Telling stories is one of the things that makes us human. We use stories to make sense of the world around us, which is why hearing the tales of another culture is such a powerful experience: it lets us see the world through someone else’s eyes.

At Uluru, there are plenty of opportunities to hear stories that you may never have heard before - for instance, the tales of Kuniya the sand python and Liru the poisonous snake, and the battles they fought that literally shaped the lands around them. Those small holes stippling the face of Uluru, for instance? They are the impact wounds left by spears thrown by Liru.

Some stories are best told in the place where they occurred. Take a guided walk along the base of Uluru and you will find that every cave and every waterhole is the setting for a different story. Or sign up for a free bush yarn session in the resort’s Circle of Sand to hear tales of brave hunters and how they wielded their spears, their clubs and their boomerangs against their enemies.

The Anangu don’t just tell stories, they also paint them. The rock art of Central Australia recounts the stories of the Anangu as vividly as any medieval painted manuscript. One of Australia’s best collections of rock art can be seen on a day trip to Cave Hill. This little-visited site contains spectacular rock paintings done in startlingly bright colours, which recount the adventures of seven sisters chased by the hunter Wati Neru.

 

 

Alternatively, learn to paint a story yourself at a dot painting workshop led by a local elder. The session begins with an introduction to the various symbols used in Anangu art; later you will have the opportunity to create your own work.

If there is one thing we all love to talk about, it is food. Want to learn more about the local bush tucker? Then join a guided garden walk that introduces you to the many different plants which the Anangu relied on for survival, or sign up for a bush food experience, which gives you an insight into the cultural side of bush tucker.  

Like many other aspects of Indigenous life, hunting and gathering food was divided along gender lines. Anangu women were responsible for a range of foods, including tjurata, or sweet foods– favourite treats included honey ants and the nectar of the honey grevillea – and mai, which includes all sorts of seeds fruits and vegetables. Prized delicacies included native pigweed and bush onion or tjanmata. The sparse desert vegetation offers a surprisingly rich harvest of fruits, if you know where to look: everything from quandong, or wayanu, to bush plum (arnguli) and kampurarpa, the desert raisin.

What about the men? No prizes for guessing that it was their job to bring home the meat, which included treats such as sand goanna, emu and red kangaroo. And it seems likely that, sitting around the campfire after a good dinner, the hunters would regale their audience with the tales of the ones that got away.

Ute Junker worked as a magazine editor and TV and digital producer before running away to become a travel writer. She now gets to pursue her passions - including food, history, art, architecture and wildlife - across the globe.