Wati Kutjarra (Two Goanna Men) Dreaming

The Wati Kutjarra Tjukurrpa, or Two Goanna Men Dreaming, is immensely significant for a number of Aboriginal groups. In their ancestral journeys, the Two Goanna Men travelled over a large expanse of land including that of the Warlpiri, Pintupi, Kukatja,Walmajarri and Ngardi peoples, as well as even further afield, through the Pitjantjatjara lands.

The story arose as a result of the lawlessness of a lustful old man of the Tjungarrayi skin group who lived with many women with whom he had sexual relations, regardless of whether or not they were in the 'right' kinship affiliation with him to be suitable marriage partners.

Whenever boy children were born to any of his wives, Tjungarrayi would order the babies to be killed. By ordering the deaths of the boys, Tjungarrayi was removing potential sexual competitors. Girl babies however he allowed to survive but, in some versions of this Dreaming, even this has unpleasant implications given the man's sexual behaviour.

Eventually two baby boys were born at around the same time, to two of Tjungarrayi's many wives. The mothers, who were finding that having to kill and bury the tiny bodies of their boy babies was unbearably upsetting, defied their husband, taking the two babies far away from where the group was camped, to a place hidden by a large sandhill, where first they breast-fed their infants and then later they clandestinely smuggled food for the children to eat.

The two boys thrived, but all the time were plotting to take their revenge on their father. After some time the two, who by now were young men, put their plan into action.

They visited their father's brother, another Tjungarrayi, who lived some distance away. They convinced him that their father intended to prey upon and steal that particular brother's wives. The brother, outraged, crept up on the boys' father and, at close range, threw a boomerang at him with great force, almost fatally wounding the man, who did however manage to retaliate, eventually killing his brother.

The two sons then travelled over vast areas of desert country, going in and out of the ground at various places, creating natural phenomena, drinking from rockholes and soakages and leaving traces of their presence in the landforms. The Goanna Men were able to travel at great speed over the landscape, wearing sandals made from emu feathers in order to leave no tracks. The Two Goanna Men thus became Dreaming Ancestors to many Aboriginal people.

As anthropologist Lee Cataldi has written, the sons 'become the culture heroes of a whole cycle of myths concerning the Two Men. A major sequence of the Two Men centred around a place called Yagga Yagga which includes typical culture hero activities such as teaching people to use fire and cook their food'. Yagga Yagga is a small community located 80 kilometres south of Balgo in the Great Sandy Desert.

The Wati Kutjarra Dreaming underpins the ritual education that turns boys into men in the same way that the Malu-Kanyala-Tjurki (Kangaroo-Euro-Owl) complex does for some Pitjantjatjara, and the Tingari Cycle does for the Pintupi and other regional groups.

The narrative also acts as a moral template, in which the importance of observing marriage laws is stressed. In oral versions, for example that of Peggy Rockman Napaljarri, the depiction of the transgressor's punishment for breaching the Law figures prominently.

Wati Kutjara
Wati Kutjarra near Yagga Yagga