Bohra The Kangaroo


Legend has it that there was a time in blackfellow land when the night came down like a black cloud and veiled the world in darkness letting neither moon nor stars be seen. But as Bohra liked to feed at night, he objected to this darkness. Being a great wirinun, he put an end to it by just rolling the darkness back as if it had been a rug and let it rest on the edge of the world while the stars and moon shone out.

Bohra was very pleased with himself as he could now see to feed during the night and he could go about as he pleased on his four legs, for in those days Bohra went on all fours like a dog. One night as he was feeding, Bohra saw a number of fires ahead and heard sounds of many voices singing. As he got closer, he saw strangely marked figures dancing round and round the firelit circle. The voices grew louder and louder as the boomerangs clicked faster and faster and then the noise died away into silence, the figures stopped dancing and disappeared into the bush. Bohra felt as he had watched them, a strong desire to dance too. He reared himself on his hind-legs balancing himself with his tail and jumped round and round the ring behind the last man. The men turned and saw Bohra standing on his hind-legs and looked in wondering terror at him. The men began to dance again and Bohra just tried to do as they did. Leaving Bohra to himself in the ring, the men went away and after a long interval came back wearing rough looking tails of grass bound around their waist belts and began jumping round the ring as Bohra had done with their long tails waggling behind them.

When they stopped, an old tribal wirinun told Bohra that because he had come to their corroboree without being asked, he must be punished. He did not want to kill Bohra as he had shown them a new dance but as punishment, his tribe for ever after, shall move jumping on their hind-legs and their forefeet shall be as hands and their tails shall balance them. The tribal wirinun also made Bohra a tribal brother and as such, must forever keep silent their secret rites. As part of Bohra’s initiation into the tribe, his canine teeth were knocked out and his tribe, to this day, have never had these teeth since.

Ever since the men of the Bohra tribe have put on their false tails and danced the kangaroo dance at sacred corroborees as when Bohra was bewitched into going on two legs, so starting a way which all kangaroos have had to follow since and this was how they learnt to hop as they do.

Michael J Connolly (Munda-gutta Kulliwari)
Dreamtime Kullilla-Art
www.kullillaart.com.au