Hunting and preparing Ngalmangiyi and butchering Manimunak

Mayh, a Kunwinjku term for food animal, opens the door to the most commonly desired cultural activity – hunting, and the most common painting subject, in kunwardde, dollobbo and djurra bim (rock, bark and paper painting). I was as eager as everyone else to go fishing, but especially hunting. Unfortunately nobody that I became close to in the community had easy access to a gun, the weapon now used for most hunting, particularly during manimunak (magpie goose) season which had begun during the second half of my time in Gunbalanya. I did get a taste though after my kakkak obtained one from relatives in Kakadu and she butchered it in half on the kitchen table. My friend Matt and I baked it with potatoes in the oven, but I would have preferred a fire preparation. I likened the taste to rabbit rather than chicken or duck.

Luckily another hunting season began in which guns are unnecessary. Hunting Ngalmangiyi (long-neck turtle) requires a long metal rod with a wooden handle referred to as a crowbar, no shoes, and plenty of endurance. As it was the beginning of the season, often a days search would result in empty stomachs, the end of the dry being the time where big mobs are found, the swamps being at their driest. I went with my karrang and my rdarda and our dje dje walking along slowly in the mud and through kuku (water) with baladj (leech) and birndu (mosquitos), stabbing the rod into the mud until the sound of it hitting the shell is heard. As you can imagine, it’s like hitting the jackpot in such a vast area of possibility. Although I didn’t find one, I shared in the cooking, preparation and eating of the ngalmangiyi caught by one rdarda which enabled me to understand experientially the body parts and their depiction in paintings. I enjoyed the taste of the smokey fatty meat, the fat being bright yellow. It was similar to the kedgebbe (file snake) but less stringy.

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