On a later tour, in November, Spencer spent two weeks with the Wardaman Tribe by the Flora River, where the dense forest provided shelter for huge colonies of flying foxes. Each morning a few men caught some of these large bats, and upon returning threw them to the women to cook, though sometimes they did this themselves. If the men cooked, they always did it at a fire by themselves. Twice I saw a man doing this and the women, who had been cooking, went away when the man came to the fire. The method was very simple: they were placed on the red-hot embers of a camp fire so as to singe the hair off, the bodies being taken off every now and then and rubbed. Perhaps half a dozen women sat round one fire with a few children. As a general rule one or, at the most, two women acted as cooks, turning the bodies over to cook both sides. Before they were done, the cook always took the body and, using both hands and teeth, tore it up into joints and pieces that were then either handed round and eaten or replaced on the fire for further cooking.
Keywords: aborigines, anthropology, Baldwin Spencer, Walter, custom, Northern Territory, 1912
Photograph: Wardaman women cooking in a camp by the Flora Falls. Flora River, November, 1912. Photograph Baldwin Spencer. Reproduced courtesy Museum Victoria.
© Museum Victoria
Author: Nettheim, Garth