Evidence of creation
Rocks, crevices, caves, waterholes: these are the Tjukuritja, the physical evidence that supports the creation stories of Tjukurpa, the complex laws and systems of belief and morality of the Anangu.
Here, indentations along Uluru’s side are paw-prints of Kurpany, the devil dog sent by enemies from the west to massacre the ancient Mala ancestors who insulted them. There, scaly grey-green marks represent the burnt skin of greedy, lying Lungkata the lizard, smoked from a cave and fallen to his death after stealing food.
Further on, Mutitjulu Waterhole is a place of tranquillity and beauty, fed by a cascade of pools in the rock above and ringing with birdsong. But it is surrounded on both sides by marks of legendary violence.
In the Dreamtime, Liru the venomous snake killed a nephew of Kuniya the sand python. Enraged, Kuniya pursued him to the waterhole. Boulders near its entrance are the eggs she put down in preparation for battle; sinuous marks are her track; and to one side is Liru himself, a massive rock split by two cracks. The smaller is where Kuniya first hit him with her digging stick, the larger is the killing blow. She remains coiled below, watching in case the murderer returns.
These are not mere symbols but eternal lessons to the Anangu about honour, duty, daily practice, honesty, respect and the value of life.
But you don’t need to be an Indigenous Australian to consider Uluru a sacred site. Millions of the rest of us have been enticed here since the first tour group arrived – in a school bus after a tough, two-day haul from Alice Springs – in 1950. Every year 250,000 Australian and overseas tourists visit.
They enjoy far more comfort and variety than those in that bus. Some might say luxury. Take the two women with the sense of spirit: tonight their view and the bubbly are shared with indigenous-flavoured canapes, perhaps kangaroo and bush tomato crostini or paperbark-smoked crocodile frittata.
They, and I, are enjoying a Sounds of Silence dinner, in which our bush tucker buffet will be spectacularly lit from above and below – by the brilliance of the Milky Way and the world-renowned art installation Field of Light, in which 50,000 frosted glass spheres flower with changing colour. Creator Bruce Munro was inspired when camping at Uluru in 1992.
“I saw in my mind a landscape of illuminated stems that, like the dormant seed in a dry desert, wait until darkness falls, under a blazing blanket of southern stars, to bloom with gentle rhythms of light.”