Narbalek: A trip to Kundjabe

Narbalek: A trip to Kundjabe
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
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The family travel to Kundjabe to fish. The women bait the hooks with worms, while they talk about the different types of food available to them. There is a great familiarity with how the family relate to this place.

Summary by Romaine Moreton.

A simple documentary that allows the Bordoh clan to represent themselves as simply as possible. There is as little intrusion as possible by the filmmakers on the activities of the family as they go about their everyday business.

Narbalek synopsis

An observational documentary about the Bordoh clan of Manmoyi, 200 km from Oenpelli, in Arnhem Land.

Nabarlek is part of the Nganampa Anwernekenhe series produced by Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) Productions. Nganampa Anwernekenhe means 'ours’ in the Pitjantjatjara and Arrernte lanuages, and the series aims to contribute to the preservation of Indigenous languages and cultures.

Narbalek curator's notes

A simple observation-style documentary from Beck Cole, featuring the Bardoh clan of Manmoyi. The documentary has a gentle lapping rhythm, almost like water, as we follow the Bordoh clan on a fishing expedition. The family climbing into a trailer pulled by a tractor, move en masse to the river to swim and hunt food. Woven through this documentary is the intention of the present generation to pass on cultural information to the next generation. The gentle care with which the family relates to each other and how they relate to place is imbued with a connectedness and simplicity keeping the priority of the preservation of culture and tradition in the foreground.

Notes by Romaine Moreton


Education notes

This clip shows members of the Bordoh clan of Manmoyi in Arnhem Land, on a fishing trip. It opens with the group travelling in a trailer pulled by a tractor, to Kundjabe to fish. There, two women fish at a waterhole while the older woman talks of previous fishing expeditions and the fish and bush foods available at Kundjabe. A series of shots follows an older man with a young male companion as they walk through the bush. The older man points out wood suitable for spears and for bark painting and explains how the shovel-nosed spear was made. The clip features subtitles.

Educational value points

  • This clip reveals the continuing strong traditional culture of the Bordoh clan, centred in a deep knowledge of and affinity with country. Members of the Bordoh clan refer to a way of life – their own and that of their ancestors – that involves a relationship with the area of Kundjabe. They exhibit their knowledge of the wealth of foods and materials that this rich area provides.
  • The clip demonstrates the passing on of Bordoh traditional knowledge from one generation to another in an understated and wholly natural way. An older woman and a young girl sit together and fish at the edge of the waterhole. The older woman would have taught the young woman how to fish. Speaking to camera, she lists the traditional food that they harvest from the river, such as barramundi, bream, saratoga and the short-necked turtle. Wild honey and yams are also collected.
  • The specialised nature of traditional knowledge and the way this knowledge is transmitted are indicated in the clip. The older man points out to the younger man, as they walk through the bush, the types of wood required for different purposes. Spears for killing buffalo and kangaroos are made of strong hardwood to penetrate the skins of large animals. Fishing spears are made from lighter wood and often have several barbed points.
  • The filmmaker uses an observational style in recording the fishing expedition. The film maintains a leisurely pace that suits the ease of the participants in their landscape and relates to the natural rhythms of a traditional way of life that adapts to seasonal changes. The filmmaker’s subjects appear to dictate the pace and delivery of the unfolding story.
  • The Bordoh clan, depicted in the clip, are able to maintain a largely traditional way of life at Manmoyi, an outstation in Arnhem Land, 200 km from Oenpelli. Arnhem Land, a remote and unspoilt part of Australia in the north-eastern corner of the Northern Territory, is controlled by the Northern Land Council and its small population is predominantly Indigenous.
  • The clip provides an example of the early work of filmmaker Beck Cole (1975–). Since graduating from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School in 2002 she has been based in Alice Springs. Her films explore original perspectives on Indigenous life. In 2005 her film Wirriya – Small Boy was nominated for Best Short Documentary at the Inside Film Awards in Sydney. Her films have been screened at the Sundance and Edinburgh film festivals.
  • The clip demonstrates the guiding principles behind the Nganampa Anwernekenhe television series from which it comes – to feature Indigenous people speaking their original language, and to allow their voice to shape the film. The subjects in this clip speak in their language with confidence and a lack of self-consciousness. This appears to be very much their film, with them setting the agenda and the filmmaker following their direction.
  • The clip is from Narbalek (2001), one of more than 100 documentaries made in the Nganampa Anwernekenhe series. Produced by the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), the series’ aim was to preserve and promote Indigenous language and culture. It was designed primarily for Indigenous audiences, and the films’ subjects speak in their own languages with subtitles. Topics ranged widely and included traditional law as well as cultural and social issues.

Education notes provided by The Learning Federation and Education Services Australia

Production company:
CAAMA Productions
Executive producer:
Priscilla Collins (AKA Cilla Collins)
Beck Cole

This clip starts approximately 17 minutes into the documentary.

The Bordoch clan are travelling through the Outback in an open-topped vehicle.
Man, speaking in Indigenous language We look for wild honey and goannas or whatever. We catch fish from here using fishing lines or we spear fish with pronged fishing spears.

A woman threads a worm on to a fishing hook.
Woman, speaking in Indigenous language This place is called Kundjabe, we come here in the daytime. If we want to go night fishing, we got to Mibindarang. There are black bream, barramundi and saratoga here. Sometimes we come here to get short neck turtle, cheeky yams, long yams and bush radish which we used to eat before. We also look for wild honey. The children collect wild sugar grass. We go to many places for fishing and wherever we go, the children are always breaking wild sugar grass and eating it. Here the fish bite and I have to hang on. They eat meat as bait. I hope I catch a short-neck turtle with big, fat legs, like before. We got a long-neck turtle, too. Yeah! Long-neck turtles and short-neck turtles eat meat for bait. Like the time your sister Sarah caught one. She is over there. A little baby fish is biting.

The men are walking through the brush.
Man, speaking in an Indigenous language This wood is used to make a fishing spear. These other trees here are used to make bark paintings. This one here, for the bark, these young saplings here are used for spears. Those there are used to make shovel-nose spears. Our ancestors used to put stone points in them for hunting buffalo and kangaroos with shovel-nose spears. They showed me how to use this eucalypt tree to make them.