From Technicians of the Sacred (expanded): “Worawora Woman,” from Paddy Roe’s Gularabulu, talk poem with commentary

WORAWORA WOMAN                          
        (by Paddy Roe) 

Well this man proper man had two woman in camp  -

an' he's a strong man that fella well I mean he can feed that two woman -

that's why he's strong you know he, he can get lotta food -

walkin' you know --


well he used to kill goanna --

everything -

bring pleeenty o' meat you know plenty everything tucker for these two  woman --


so one day come –

that old fella paint himself with everything -

he want to find this woman if it's true –

it's true all right he come out in 'im -

so he got this woman too an' he got nether two over there proper womans in his camp you know --

all right -

oh this woman feller 'im round he got his, thing too, to carry --

everything what that man kill you know (Stephen: Yeah) -

tucker for them two women too –

all right -

oh he got 'nuf dis -

coolamon is full now you know with the tucker goanna everything -

"Oh well that 'nuf ' -


     all right he -

     he stop in one, tree -

   they siddown -

     “All right you take this one” -

     he tell that woman -

     “An I’ll take this one back to my ‘nother two woman in camp” -

     “No” he say --

     “No you not takin’ anything back it’s all mine” -


(Laughs)  he come back -

come back in his two woman --

so that woman disappeared with his tucker an' everything it's gone -

this man goback oh he's too tired now can't get nomore -

everything enough to goback home he's hungry --

he had two woman waiting for im -

see  -

only with spear hunting stick tommyhawk in his belt --

"Ooh what wrong?" they tell-im -

"No no got nothing" he say “I been everywhere can't find

          anything" --

he didn' want to tell, these two woman -


ah -

he's bin doin' this for aaaall the time -

so this man off dis way -

but that woman is there too  -

he kill eeeverything what he can get he pull everything out of his belt -

that man you know put-im in his little, that thing -

he must carry all them things -

he bin doin' this for ooh ----


(Speaks to Butcher Joe in Nyigina)

smoke -

           all right? -

    no I means -

he just  asked  me if -

that smoke all right, eh -

it's not -- (Stephen: Oh that's all right) aah (Stephen: He wants to move?) no he's all right too -


aah so one day come -

"Ah well you bin little bit too long comin' back with these  things" he tell-im  "No tucker" -

these two woman tell-im --

"You must be got somebody" -

tell-im, you know these two woman say --

"Might be some woman somewhere" -

oh they know too the womans know too -

"Aah yes" he tell-im "Yeah -

that's that woman" -

aah all right "Well we gettin' hungry look at all the kids all gettin' hungry no tucker  -

you only feeding one woman" -

"Yeah tha's right" he say "Tha's true" -


so he went back again he kill everything  -

finish all right -

they siddown under the tree now,  that -

aall that goanna what dis man got he puttin-im in the same dish again you know that thing -

this man off one side 'e get that tommyhawk from his belt an' he cut his neck right off -

finish (Laughs) (Stephen: Oh) kill-im, dead -

finish -

'e didn't want to kill-im but 'e had to do it -

other way they all die from hungry too -  

the people -

so he kill that woman -


but that’s only one -

it’s lots more, yet -

(Laughs) you know (Stephen: Mm) -

he only done this jus’ to try -

this person, you know -

he done this jus’ to try -

but we all know too -

there is a woman there -


but we gotta be painted up with the different trees -

you know -

gotta be painted up with different trees -

we bite all the leaves and skin you know off the trees an' we gotta paint -

sit down under that tree then the woman come (Laughs) -

I know it's very hard for somebody to believe, you know (Stephen : Mm) It, it's dere -

it's there -

(Stephen : Aw, sounds all right) -

(Laughs) yeah -

yeah -

Oh some, lotta people done these things too, you know -

lotta  people done paint themselves


(Nyigina , Australia)


Source: Paddy Roe, Gularabulu: Stories from the West Kimberly, ed. Stephen Muecke, Freemantle Arts Centre Press, West Kimberley, pp. 31-34, 1983.


This is all public,
You know (it) is for everybody.
Children, women, everybody.
See, this is the thing they used to tell us:
Story, and we know.
        PADDY ROE


SYNOPSIS.  A fine strong man used to  provide  handsomely  for his two wives by hunting.

     One day he thought he'd see if the worawora woman really existed, so he painted himself up in the required way. He left his camp and went to the right tree where the  woman  came  out  to meet him.

     They hunted together, but when he wanted to share the hunt between her and his women in camp she refused, taking all the food for herself.

     The man went back home empty–handed. His wives questioned him, he said he could find nothing.

     Everyday he went to this woman and the same thing happened. Eventually he revealed the truth at his wives' insistence.

     Then he went and decapitated the woman.


     (2)  Paddy Roe’s choice of title, Gularabulu (“the coast where the sun goes down”), references his own home territory in the West Kimberley region of western Australia.  But the work is an instance too of his reaching out, by the transmission in Aboriginal English of a range of narratives both traditional & contemporary. The resultant “talk poems” (D. Antin), drawn from a word-for-word transcription of his spoken account, provides a conscious transmission from him to “us,” for which Stephen Muecke (identified by bold face in the present text) takes on the roll of listener & scribe.  In this process, Muecke writes further, “Aboriginal English is a vital communicative link between Aboriginal speakers of different language backgrounds.  It also links blacks and whites in Australia, so, as it is used in these stories, it could be said to represent the language of ‘bridging’ between the vastly different European and Aboriginal cultures.  It is therefore in this language that aspects of a new Aboriginality could be said to be emerging.”            

     In the making of such a new “narrative art,” the transcribers follow a pattern along lines developed earlier by Dennis Tedlock & analogous as well to David Antin’s “talk poems.”  Thus: “The texts are divided into lines whenever the narrator pauses.  The length of these pauses is indicated by one dash per second of pause.  Hesitations in mid-line, at which points the breath is held at the glottis, are indicated by commas.  Extended vowels, ‘growls’ or breathy expressions, are indicated by adding more letters to the extent of one per second.  The texts are also broken up into episodes.”

     (3) In constructing his own poetics, Paddy Roe, as Muecke describes it, “distinguishes between three types of story: trustori (true stories), bigaregara (stories from the dreaming) and devil stori (stories about devils, spirits, etc.)”  In the last of these “something inexplicable or anomalous happens which can only be explained by the presence of some spirit being.  As Paddy Roe says, in connection with the alluring Worawora spirit woman [in the episode presented here]: ‘Sometimes we see a woman pass but, when you look again you might say: Oh yes I’ve only seen a grass.  But it is the woman Worawora, she still lives today.’