“On the other hand, if you smashed or lost your tjuringa, you were beyond the pale, and had lost all hope of ‘returning.'  of one young layabout in Alice, I heard it said, 'He hasn’t seen his truringa.  He doesn’t know who he is.’”

– FromThe Songlinesby Bruce Chatwin

A 'Tjuringa’ is a sacred stone, on which is written the piece of the songline that belongs to a particular person.  These are stored in a safe place and it is up to the individual to protect their tjuringa and keep it safe, therefore, keeping that piece of the song safe.


Consider for a moment how a screenplay is like an Aboriginal “tjuringa” - an incised stone, piece of wood or bone - that carries the spirit (kurin) and the dreaming (tjurkurrpa) of the tribe. The dreaming is enacted in song sycles, which are sung and danced, and the enacting of these creation and transformation stories forms the basis of the on-going initiation rites of the tribe - a kind of cosmic university in which both mature male and female members are conducted into the secret/sacred lore and law (logic) of the tribes’ understanding of the world and the transformations that have made it what it is and continue to allow it to refresh itself.

The world into which the initiates are conducted is both strange and fearsome, even chaotic and weird, but the songman’s responsibility (as kurtungulu - “custodian” of the dream) is to make the experience PRESENT and dramatically compelling enough for the initiate to enter the story, AND for the story and its characters to enter him or her. It is the same for both males and females in Aboriginal culture, though the bias has been towards an extrapolation of male stories - and the skewed perception of an inequality that doesn’t exist in Aboriginal law and narrative, has been the result, largely owing to the fact that most of the early anthropologists - even now - are male.

It is the job of the storyteller/s to conduct the narrative energies in ways that they are accessible to those for whom they are being enacted whilst also maintaining their power and transformative qualities. This is the same for storytellers everywhere. One cannot tell stories divorced oneself from the tribe or tribes through which they have come, or from the audience, to whom the storyteller is addressing the story. Both Tribe and Audience, along with the dramatis personae of the story and the storyteller him/herself, are ALL characters within the living matrix of Story, which lives and/or dies by virtue of the participation of all the characters necessary for finding it and enacting it.

For more on all this, see and among other pages on this website, WHERE’S THE DRAMA?