A Sunset Story by Heide Smith

narrated by Catherine Stassi



In 2019 I posted 4 blogs called the Sunset Story Series. Here is what I said in the 4th one ;

The sun had lost its heat and painted everything golden on this beach on the northern part of Melville Island not far from Pulurumpi (Garden Point). Sunset is a time of magic, a time to tell stories, and the Tiwi women love telling stories from “long ago”. I can't remember her name, but I do remember her soft voice when she was telling the tale of Purukaparli and Pima his wife, to this young girl.

“Purukaparli, the son of the creator woman Murtankala, lived with his wife Pima and son Jinana. Every day, Pima took Jinani with her to collect food in the bush. She would meet her husband’s brother Tapara, who had persuaded her to leave Jinani asleep in the shade of a tree, so that the two of them could sneak away to make love. On one very hot summer day, Pima stayed away too long. When she returned, the child was no longer in the shade, and had died. On hearing of his son’s death, Purukaparli was outraged. He struck Pima on the head with his throwing stick, and said that death would come to the whole world. Tapara pleaded with him for the body of Jinani, who he said he could restore to life in three days, but Purukaparli refused and fought Tapara; both were seriously wounded. Purukaparli then carried Jinani’s body into the sea, calling out “you must follow me, as I die, so must all of you. Tapara, seeing what had happened, changed himself into the moon to be externally reincarnated every month. Tapara’s scars from the fight can be seen on the full moon. Pima became the Curlew (Waiai), the wailing bird who wanders the night calling in remorse for her dead son. Before dying, Purukaparli together with Tokampini, the bird man, made the first Pukumani Pole to stand next to the grave of his son, and created the first Pukumani mourning ceremony for Jinani”

This story, together with the images from the Sunset Series, appears in my second Tiwi book, “Portrait of a People - the Tiwi of northern Australia”. One of the images was also used as the Cover Photograph for the “Bringing them home” report for the “National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Children from Their Families”in 1997.

A few days ago I discovered that the mother’s name was Catherine Stassi and her daughter is Helena Munkara. I want to thank you Catherine and Helena. I hope that you have enjoyed the images, as much as I enjoyed taking them.


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