Crookhat and the Kulanada (2010)

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In the arid desert country of the central Northern Territory there is a surprising strip of green where an underground spring feeds a waterhole. This country is full of surprises – not least the huge Murray cod that can be found swimming in these creeks. But the story we’re about to hear is of an even more fabulous creature – Kulanada – the rainbow serpent of the Dreaming and how he presented himself to the people when the first white men arrived.

Continuing the series that starts with Karli Jalangu (Boomerang Today), Crookhat and Camphoo, and Karlu Karlu (Devil’s Marbles), David Tranter, the director of Willaberta Jack continues to document the dreaming stories, traditional crafts and fascinating culture of his Alyawarra heritage.

In the arid desert country of the central Northern Territory there is a surprising strip of green where an underground spring feeds a waterhole. This country is full of surprises – not least the huge Murray cod that can be found swimming in these creeks. But the story we’re about to hear is of an even more fabulous creature – Kulanada– the rainbow serpent of the Dreaming and how he presented himself to the people when the first white men arrived.

A four wheel drive journeys through the country and arrives at the spring. The three old men who emerge are Donald (Crookhat) Kemarre Thompson, Alec Pitjara Peterson and Casey Holmes. We watch and listen as they talk about this journey and make greetings to the spring and the spirit that lives here.

We listen to their conversation as they gather firewood and prepare a camp – not just idle chit-chat but a litany of knowledge of this place and how to behave in it. When they come to the concrete slab that was the foundation for the old station homestead, their conversation turns to the old days in the nineteen-twenties when white men first came here to establish cattle stations. Now we get the first hint that there will be more to this narrative than just a dreaming story.

As the campfire sends sparks into the clear desert sky the narrative continues – spoken by one man and monitored by the other.

Crookhat tells the story of Kulanada and how he caused the spring to provide water and how he keeps the waterways clean and watches over them. He relates this Kulanada story to the other Rainbow Serpent Dreaming stories too. Alec Peterson monitors the story with supplementary questions and corrections.

Crookhat then tells of the coming of the white men and their cattle and how it changed the whole of the culture and specifically the story of the leaseholder who came face to face with Kulanada and fired a shot at him and the repercussions of that event.

Crookhat and Tracker are two respected Elders of this Alyawarra country. There are many secrets they are not at liberty to reveal but they have agreed to tell this story.