Nakarra Nakarra (Seven Sisters) Dreaming

The Nakarra Nakarra Dreaming or Seven Sisters narrative exists in many forms throughout Aboriginal Australia. The story and artistic representations of it extend from the north near Balgo (Wirrimanu) in Western Australia to as far south as the Ngarrindjeri people of the River Murray in South Australia.

In this Dreaming story there are seven young sisters with the same skin-name Nakarra (diminutive of Nakamarra). The Seven Sisters are Creator Beings who move through the ancestral landscape, creating natural phenomena and involving themselves in ceremonial life, including "young men's business" or initiation ceremonies.

In the Balgo region, the Nakarra Nakarra song cycle follows the flight of the seven sisters from their 'wrong skin' lovers; their ceremonial role in the initiations for boys and other rituals; their use of tools to procure and process food; their being swallowed, together with men, by a snake; their stealing of sacred objects; and their transformation into sacred sites.

In the Kukatja kinship system (as is the case in the Warlpiri kinship system) there are eight relationship terms which are subsections determined by where one's mother fits into the kinship system. Each of the eight subsections have a male and a female iteration. One of these names/subsections for women is Nakamarra.

Within the kinship structure there are many regulations, including a preferred marriage partner for members of each subsection. Some sexual relationships are considered incestuous regardless of whether or not there is a biological relationship between the two people who make a couple. Whether or not such a relationship is permissible is determined by the kinship system.

The Nakarra Nakarra Dreaming is about the seven Nakamarra sisters and their pursuit by a man who wishes to have a non-sanctioned relationship with them. The man who is lusting after the beautiful young women is chasing them across the country - and they are endlessly on the run trying to escape his unwanted advances. This man is in the "wrong skin" relationship to the sisters and therefore is not a suitable marriage partner for them under Kukatja law. Such a union would be considered incestuous and therefore very wrong. While he never catches them, and never fulfills his illicit desires with them, the sisters can never rest.

The man's pursuit of these young women is permanently "engraved" onto the night sky itself in the form of the cluster of stars known in English as the Seven Sisters (Pleiades). Interestingly, in Greek mythology this cluster of brilliant stars is also thought to comprise seven sisters, believed to be the seven mythical daughters of Pleione and Atlas.

The story reveals Aboriginal people's knowledge of the night sky as well as the strict moral and social codes within which they operate. In the case of the Nakarra Nakarra Dreaming from near Wirrimanu (Balgo), women have particular rights and responsibilities in relation to the narrative and paintings whereas in some other Aboriginal communities others may have greater custodial rights.

The seven sisters are also seen as seven notable hills in the plains beyond Yagga Yagga, a small community located 80 kilometres south of Balgo in the Great Sandy Desert.

Nakarra Nakarra Hills