Tuesday, 22 May 2012

This is a Cup!

I'm going to stop banging on about the Kimberley after this, but I didn't want to finish on a down note in case you think that I went off to visit some sort of post-colonial dystopia.  There are some hard aspects to life on the Dampier Peninsula but wonderful people, a great place and a lot to like.  So instead I want to tell you about two things - cups and fishing.

First of all, to paraphrase Crocodile Dundee, this is not a cup.

THIS is a cup!

People in the Dampier Peninsula communities do not drink small cups of tea.  If we stayed in a hotel, my local co-workers would despair because their rooms had thimble-like cups which would only just give you a taste.  Any cup of tea smaller than half a litre is not worth making.

And then, of course, no conversation on the Dampier Peninsula is complete without some mention of fishing.  Of course they live by the sea, but more than that, they spend a lot of time on it.  Kids can handle boats before they can walk.  Young men make their own spears and they're not afraid to use them.  One of the reasons people would rather live on country than in the town is because in town if you run out of money you go hungry.  In the communities you go fishing.

They still do it in much the same way their ancestors did, although as a concession to the modern world they use nylon fishing line and tip their spears with heavy gauge wire.  Some things, like stingray, you can catch any time of year.  Others can only be hunted at certain times.  Dugong, for instance, can only be hunted for a brief time in the spring, and only for special occasions.  Apparently it tastes a little like pork and is very fatty, so you couldn't eat it every day.  When they're not hunting them they conserve them.  The local Aboriginal Rangers run a tagging program to identify the migration patterns - although one of them told us with a glint in his eye that they already knew the migration patterns from hunting them over the years, they just needed to prove to white scientists that they knew what they were talking about.  Now they are international experts and some of them have just been to the United Arab Emirates to help tag dugong in the Red Sea.

When we were there, it was turtle season.  One of the younger men had caught one a few days before our final visit.  I would have loved to have taste but I was too late, because along with traditional hunting comes traditional sharing.  If you have a catch, you don't eat it all yourself (there's a lot of meat on a turtle!) you share it with your family and friends.  You will certainly have plenty of friends when there's turtle on offer, especially if it's washed down by servings of tea in proper cups.

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