Moving Through Space and (Not?) Time: North Australian Dreamtime Narratives


This talk takes up dreamtime narratives with original research analysis of narrative structure in three North Australian languages; Jaminjung, MalakMalak, and Kriol. Traditional dreamtime stories are inherently bound to the place and landscape they are located in, and, by default, narrated in-situ. Temporal order of events within the narrative flow may be overridden by spatial ordering, thus placing emphasis on a change of location rather than logical time sequence of events. Various story-telling versions of the same narratives reveal that temporal order of events is flexible and that the structure may be mapped onto space in a meaningful fashion. It is observed for MalakMalak that dreamtime narratives often focus on the narrative significance of place, re-telling the land rather than the story alone by simultaneously telling multiple stories that take place in the same location at the same time. Additionally, restriction in movement ultimately leads to stagnation within the plot of a story, making 'motion' a key structural and contextual element for most narratives analyzed in this study. In general, the established significance of ‘place’ is directly linked to the owner’s identity. This relationship may be found in narratives of all three languages, thus indicating a continuing cultural trait irrespective of language shift.