While we were in Australia’s Blue Mountains, we had the opportunity to meet an Aboriginal woman named Cindy who showed us a collection of things that she said would be all that an Aboriginal needed to live in the bush. Spread out on the table before us, she had myriad objects such as an emu caller, a fire stick, a didgeridoo, a bush telephone, and lots of seeds and plants. I listened intently to her entire presentation, but was most interested in hearing about the two boomerangs she showed us because of a conversation we had with a waiter in Sydney.
Our last evening in Sydney, we dined at an excellent seafood restaurant in The Rocks section of town. As we were finishing, we asked our waiter if he knew of any shop that sold boomerangs because we wanted to bring some home for our grandchildren. He said that it was unlikely that we would find any for sale anywhere in the country. We were given a mini lecture on the impropriety of even attempting to purchase them. He explained that it would be akin to coming to the US and looking to buy a Native American head dress. At first, we felt so embarrassed that we had even thought of committing such a cultural faux pas, but we soon recovered and resolved to get a second opinion. We found it rather hard to believe that the mere act of purchasing one could be so disrespectful to the Aboriginal culture. We were just thinking of boomerangs as Australian icons and never considered them in any way disrespectful of anyone.
Not far out of Sydney while traveling to the Blue Mountains, we stopped for lunch and found a couple of boomerangs for sale, so we quickly purchased them. The next day, we found even more that were also made by Aboriginals in Australia. Even though we were happy to have found them, we still did not want to be insensitive, so with much trepidation, I asked Cindy about it when she finished her presentation. I was honestly afraid I would offend her just by asking about it. She quickly blew off any notion of impropriety and said no one would be offended by our purchasing the boomerangs, which made it all the more interesting to find out about the different types and uses for boomerangs. Cindy actually suggested that we watch some scenes from Crocodile Dundee to see a boomerang being thrown.
Cindy had two different types of boomerangs, or throwing sticks, as they are sometimes called. Actually, the different tribes of indigenous people have different names for boomerangs because the tribes have their own languages. The returning boomerang is the one most people are familiar with. It is the type that usually comes to mind when people think of boomerangs. These boomerangs are sometimes used to scare birds into a net or other trap, but are mostly thought of as being for entertainment. There is no shortage of boomerang throwing competitions nowadays. The returning boomerang is thrown in an overhand fashion. The subtle aspects of the design are what make it a returning boomerang. I will post the picture of the back of the boomerang; the slight triangle-shaped sloped off areas on the edges is not really all that noticeable, but that is what makes it return, according to Cindy. She has a turtle painted on the front because that is her “spirit animal.” (I don’t know if that is the best way to describe it, but I am doing the best I can with my limited knowledge of Aboriginal culture. I am quite sure that a lifetime is not enough time to fully understand the diverse histories and cultures of the First Nations people.)
The other boomerang Cindy showed us was the one she called the “hunting” or “killer” boomerang. Historically, it has also been used as a weapon or fighting stick when Aboriginal tribes have had battles, but is mainly thought of today as being used for hunting. This boomerang is thrown underhanded and breaks the legs of animal the hunter is preying upon, usually a kangaroo or emu. The shape is different from the returning boomerang. It is not as curved as the returning boomerang and is much longer on one side.
Cindy said that even more types of boomerangs exist. There is even evidence that they have been around for at least 20,000 years in Australia. Although boomerangs have been created and used in other parts of the world throughout time, internationally Australia is most often associated with them. Australians like to think of boomerangs as a symbol of their hospitality. They hope that tourists will love their country and boomerang back, which is easy to do because Australia is awesome. Too bad our waiter can’t see that it’s so much nicer to use the boomerang as a symbol to bring people together instead of dividing them.
Totally unrelated, but I want to show pictures from our picnic after Cindy’s presentation. The cockatoos invited themselves but I must say that they are much more polite than seagulls. These beautiful birds never snatched food, but took what was offered. They don’t seem to like kiwi fruit, but they do love grapes and bread.