Crook Hat and Camphoo: The right tree
Elders Crook Hat and Camphoo are walking through the bush searching for the right tree to make spears. They tell us that the old people used to cut down the Acacia tree to make spears. The wood of the Acacia tree is laid across the fire. The elders tell how the old people used to straighten the spears this way. The elders talk about how their grandfather’s generation taught them spear making. The men use an adze to remove the lumps from the spear then the wood of the spear is smoothed off with a stone knife. Summary by Romaine Moreton.
The attention to detail is a fascinating aspect of this clip, as Crook Hat and Camphoo take us through the technical aspects of spear making, beginning with the Acacia tree. The legacy of ancient wisdom and knowledge is revered by the two elders, and spear making is not just an arbitrary act of construction, but also a ritual.
Crook Hat and Camphoo synopsis
A documentary that shows two Alyawarr elders, Donald ‘Crook Hat’ Thompson Kemarre and Reggie 'Camphoo’ Pwerl making spears and woomeras in the tradition of the old people, using technology and knowledge that are millennia old and passed generation through generation.
Crook Hat and Camphoo curator's notes
A beautifully told story that shows two elders using technology thousands of years old to make a spear and a spear thrower or a woomera. The gentle nature of the two elders and the repetition with which they state the importance of not losing the technology and knowledge that it takes to craft a spear from the environment is the rhythmic momentum of this film. The young people, they say, are not learning this culture, but the elders insist upon the ingeniousness of the old people or the ancestors from whom the knowledge and skills evolved.
A charming and defiant testimony to the ancient people of the area, and the caretakers and custodians of the people who now hold the knowledge. An important feature of the Nganampa Anwernekenhe series is language and cultural preservation. The filmmakers who record this information are now a part of the cycle of the transmission of cultural knowledge and its practice. Crook Hat and Camphoo reiterates the importance every aspect of Indigenous culture, its practice and its application, whether it is making spears or gathering honey ants. The emu bush for example, is a bush that has its own Dreaming, reinforcing an aspect of Indigenous belief that values all being – plant, mineral, animal, human – as equally important in sustaining a healthy environment.
This program has also screened on NITV, National Indigenous Television.
Notes by Romaine Moreton
This clip shows two Alyawarr men from north-east of Alice Springs, 'Crook Hat’ Thompson Kemarre and Reggie 'Camphoo’ Pwerl, making spears in the traditional way. They discuss the spearmaking process as they walk through bush in search of suitable acacia trees to use and then cut trees with an axe and prepare the wood. An adze and a stone knife are used to cut out bumps and smooth the wood. The men speak in the Alyawarr language and their conversation is subtitled in English.
Educational value points
- In 2005, as seen in the clip, spearmaking knowledge among Alyawarr people encompassed all aspects of the traditional process, including identification of a suitable tree and heating the thin trunk, bending it, removing the bark and smoothing out bumps. The tree selected in the clip is most likely a mulga, an acacia tree well-suited to spearmaking because its trunk is long and straight and its wood is relatively heavy.
- The two men use stone and metal tools to make the spears and point out the efficacy of the stone tools used by earlier generations. In the clip the men use a metal axe to cut down the tree and a metal adze blade bound to a wooden handle to remove bumps. Stone knives, seen here being used for smoothing, are generally sharper and maintain their edges longer than metal knives; their major drawback is that they break more easily.
- Traditionally, knowledge is handed down through generations by older people providing explanations and examples to younger people; while this documentary relies on film to transmit knowledge of spearmaking, it still follows the traditional teaching model of older people demonstrating and explaining. In many Indigenous communities, senior men and women provide leadership in matters affecting the whole community, including education of the young.
- The repetition of phrases such as 'the same way the old people made them’ and the switch to black and white are used in the clip to emphasise the long tradition of spearmaking. The men use repetition to convey the message that their techniques are the same as those of their grandfathers’ generation. The filmmakers reinforce the men’s message by using black and white to suggest archival footage.
- The language spoken in the clip is Alyawarr, which is used by people in a large region stretching across the south-east of the Northern Territory and into western Queensland. The National Indigenous Languages Survey (NILS) Report 2005 found that Alyawarr is one of 18 Indigenous languages in common use by all age groups.
- The clip is taken from Crook Hat and Camphoo (2005), a documentary produced by the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) in Alice Springs. CAAMA was established in 1980 and focuses on Indigenous culture, training and employment. The group consists of a radio network (8 KIN FM), CAAMA shop, CAAMA music and CAAMA productions, and is a major shareholder in Imparja TV. CAAMA broadcasts in all the major local Indigenous languages.
Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia
This clip shows two Alyawarr men, from north-east of Alice Springs, 'Crook Hat’ Thompson Kemarre and Reggie 'Camphoo’ Pwerl, making spears in the traditional way. They discuss the spearmaking process as they walk through bush in search of suitable acacia trees to use and then cut trees with an axe and prepare the wood. An adze and a stone knife are used to cut out bumps and smooth the wood. The men speak in the Alyawarr language and their conversation is subtitled in English.
Crook Hat We are really Alyawarr, that’s our language.
(Both men look up at a tree).
Crook Hat This is a really great tree for making spears. I’ll cut this one for myself. What about one for you?
Camphoo Try that one.
Crook Hat The old people used to cut down these kind of (Acacia) trees. We’ll cut this one down and make spears.
The men have built a fire and are straightening spears in it.
Crook Hat Put it there for me. So I can straighten the spear. I want to straighten it.
Scene cuts to archival footage showing the men’s grandfathers’ generation making spears in a fire. The two men talk over the footage.
Crook Hat The old people straightened the spears (in the fire) like this. Our grandfathers’ generation. I am going to make these the same way the old people made them. This is how they used to peel the bark off.
Scene changes back to the present time, with the two men continuing to forge and compare their spears.
Crook Hat This is an adze. They used this to cut out the lumps.
Camphoo What is this like?
Crook Hat Let’s get the adze.
The men sit down and smooth off the wood with knives.
Crook Hat The old people smoothes off the wood with stone knives, like this. They scraped the wood and made it smooth. Who was that man we saw, a long time ago? It was someone from here that we saw. It was one of my relatives.