chapter  12
25 Pages

The built environment

Traditionally, there were three main types of shelters. The simplest was a windbreak (wunkurr) consisting of leafy branches formed in an arc. Its size depended on the number of persons and how many wives a man had (Memmott 1983: 53-55). There was a main fire in the middle and smaller fires near where people slept. Each wife had a fireplace for herself and her children. Single men had a windbreak of their own. Some windbreaks were quite simple but in the cold south-east wind season they were quite elaborate. During the hot season people camped under a bough shed or shade (barabar), which consisted of four forked posts with bark and leafy branches on top (the platform on which a corpse was placed was of similar design). Windbreaks and bough sheds were quickly and effortlessly constructed. The material was readily at hand. When people shifted camp, because it was cluttered with debris or they wanted to move to a new hunting site, they left their shelters and built new ones. The windbreaks and bough sheds are still constructed to this day when people camp in the bush. In the rainy season people built an elaborate humpy (ngambirr) from grass, messmate and ti-tree bark, which was practically rain-proof. Channels were dug along the sides as a drainage.