Image: Jamie Millier Tjupurrula, Program Manager with the Men’s Tjilrra Movement, at a recent Papunya camp with MacYouth – Macdonnell Regional Council Youth Services
The Men’s Tjilirra Movement (MTM) uses old tools as new tools for living. Based in the central and western desert region, Program Manager Jamie Millier Tjupurrula engages with elders and men at risk through the MTM, organising cultural camps and meetings. Strengthening the bonds and cultural connection between elders and youth comes through sharing knowledge of traditional tools (tjilirra), country, culture and lore.
Jamie has maintained weekly journal recordings of his work with the MTM, and the MTM’s progress, since its inception.This blog includes excerpts from recent trips which, as well as supporting men and communities at risk, have focused on creating tjilirra to be exhibited.
We are excited to announce that the MTM has been fortunate to receive NT Arts grant funding in partnership with Papunya Tjupi Arts to support cultural development in the region. Exhibiting the tjilirra created by the MTM will affirm the significance of the works the men are creating. It will also foster pride in their cultural knowledge and encourage more men to engage with the work. The men will be paid for tjilirra they produce that are sold through the exhibition – further affirmation of the importance of their work and knowledge.
As well as exhibiting locally, CASSE intends to tour the exhibition in selected locations around Australia later this year. The communities of the western desert have important stories to share and we are very keen to provide a forum for them to share these stories. They are the stories of ancient songlines, cultural collision and of finding ways forward living in two worlds. We look forward to sharing more information about these developments in the coming months…
EXHIBITION CAMP WEEK 1
I went and spoke with the stakeholder and asked for their help with swags and told them my plans. I spoke with the youth worker and asked for his help with organizing. The youth worker helped with the bedding and transport of people. I continued to speak to families and young men. I was surprised that a few of the young men wanted to come (new initiates). I said they could. One old man came with us. We set up camp and 3 of the young men wanted to cut wood so we did. I help one of the men get started on a shield. It was getting late so I started to cook dinner.
We talked around the fire and the conversation about the MTM and the young men want to go on a trip to the west. I spoke about the Tjilirra Exhibition. I told them about the things we need to organise. We made plans for everyone to cut wood in the morning and work together. The men stayed up and talked by the fire. I spoke to the men about learning the dances and songs so we could perform them at events and get paid for that too if they wanted. The young men were keen to try this. We spoke about the lore side of things also, we need to go west and get the old men to show us properly how to do the dances at lore.
One young man with us had been into trouble; I spoke to him about it. He had stabbed someone. Young Tjupurrula had been drinking with older people than him in Alice Springs and they started to treat him badly. Young Tjupurrula walked away and got a knife and went back and stabbed a man in the drinking group. Tjupurrula is only 17 and has not got a record of this type of behavior. I spoke to him about the consequences if the man had of died. I said that he should not be doing this type of thing. I said if he worked hard I would try and help him through the MTM and support him with his case. This young man has been grown up by extended family because his family has mental health issues.
The men got firewood, and I cooked dinner. We stayed by the fire and talked. I spoke about the Tjilirra being really important for us to have in the exhibition. I sat with Bundy and I asked him about his Dreaming. He told me his story. We spoke about a future trip that ties in with the big men’s meeting I’m organising with Kintore.
The men worked and carved the shields. It was a good day of the core men working on the shields.
We packed up had breakfast we packed up the swags and trailers. I was happy with the men and how they were owning the MTM. The men having their own ideas and aspiration to spend time with elders and truly learn more of their culture. I told them they own this even if I’m not here. I said what I teach you, you have for life and no-one can take it away.
Young Tjupurrula worked hard for 3 days to make and carve his shield. I was surprised at his dedication but gave him praise for it. The men made 5 shields from start to finish and carved the designs into them as well. One shield was completed and carved by Walter.
6 shields in total made
2 fighting sticks made
EXHIBITION CAMP WEEK 3
# I repaired a tire and fueled up and drove to Mt Liebig. I stayed the night at Mt Liebig outside one of the men’s houses. I went and spoke to the men and they were still keen to go to Kintore the next day. I lit a fire and set up my camp for the night. I had some of the men come and talk by the fire. I gave them some bread and some food that I had.
An aggressive man from one of the trips before came and sat with me. I asked how his family was and we talked about his aggressive behavior. We spoke about how he could use different ways not to be violent he said he had been working on Tjilirra. He told me he had made a small boomerang for his little son and he had worked on another boomerang. I said it was good for him to stay busy.
A man from Kintore came and spoke to me about a burning off program. We spoke about the benefits of the program and that it got people and families back to far out places and back to country and traditions of the area.
I spoke with some of the old men and we organized a meeting. There were 3 old men and 2 middle-aged men. We spoke about the issues of the young people and how to fix them. We organised to meet the next day at the men’s outside of the community.
We went to the men’s area for conversation around a big meeting and how to create new laws within the current lore to combat the current issues affecting the men at the men’s place. I spent the rest of the day at the men’s museum. We spoke about what we are teaching the young men when they go through lore and what are their responsibilities. We have new culture but no new lores to fight against it. The old people before made new lores as new problems came. We spoke about the Tjilirra exhibition and that it is important that we teach the young men about the lore and practices. We spoke about how they could be paid to dance and sing. The men seemed interested to do this.
We spoke about the amount of men in jail. Over 60 people from the west couldn’t attend a recent funeral because they were in jail. We spoke about what are we really teaching the young men and the drug and violence problems.
One old man said he can make hair string and that he could show us. He also said he could make the head dresses for dancing. We worked on a lot of the sacred items and cleaned the Museum. Then we put it all back. There are few men that know of these things and their stories but the old men said these are for country before white man put paper for country. (Deed tiles for land)
The old men invoked a practice run of one of the dances, and the men were of mixed aged young and old together. We lined up and danced.
This was a truly amazing day.
The MTM is proud to work closely with organisations like Waltja and MacYouth – Macdonnell Regional Council Youth Services. In a recent blog, we shared stories from the MTM’s Kintore Kungkas Trip. Check out Waltja’s fabulous video about the trip: Young People’s Struggle Project – Kungkas Camp from Waltja.
Acting Chair of CASSE, Chris Croker, speaking to the Hon Dale Wakefield about CASSE's 'Shields for Life, Tools for Living' program, part of the government's 'Back on Track' initiative. Proud to be helping break the cycle of trauma for young Territorians. facebook.com/dale4braitling… pic.twitter.com/yYeKHuFHTV