For this week’s lessons, Mr Fisher and I thought we would focus on indigenous Australia. Unlike Liar’s Dice, the two games we selected are more physical and had to be played outdoors. These games were Puloga and Taktyerrain.
In order to fully understand these games, it was necessary to research the context from which they originated. We were able to find plenty of written sources from European settlers who described forms of indigenous leisure activities. However, this was problematic for a number of reasons. The first reason is that these sources ranged over very different regions of Australia. As our research showed, Australia’s indigenous population is not homogenous and includes hundreds of different language groups, each with a unique culture and set of customs. The second problem with these sources was due to the perspective of their authors. These accounts were written by European settlers who observed the actions of the indigenous population. Therefore, despite the first hand nature of many of these accounts, these settlers were naturally imbibed with a potential ignorance as to the significance and nature of these games. Finally, it was very difficult to find sources specific to our chosen games. However, the descriptions of the many games we did see in sources (like Marn Grook) did reflect many of the same skills that were required in Puloga and Taktyerrain.
One game we wanted to play was Puloga. Puloga was played by Aboriginal people from the Tully River and Cardwell regions in northern Queensland. It shares many of the hallmarks of modern day dodge ball. Essentially, two teams would use mock throwing weapons or balls made of animal skin and dried grass and use these in an attempt to hit opposition teams members. We mimicked this process by using soft dodgeballs and Oz-Tag belts. With plenty of advance warning, we were able to source these from the school’s PE department. Each player got two tags and these represented their ‘lives’ in the game. If a player was hit by a dodgeball, they lost a tag. When both of your tags were lost, you had to leave the game. Catching a ball thrown by an opposition player resulted in a lost tag for the player who threw the ball. The last team standing are pronounced the winners.
We used a round robin generator to schedule all the games. We also used a point system and recorded all the wins and losses of each team. This allowed us to play a ‘grand final’ and determine the best team. We thought this worked really well and that all players engaged well with the game.
We also played Taktyerrain. In this game, players are placed in opposing squares, about 5 metres apart. Each of these squares were around 1.5-2 metres squared. Each square accommodates one player. Players then take turns throwing a dodgeball at each other. The aim is to hit the opposing player and eliminate them from the game. Players had to dodge those balls thrown at them, but could not leave their square. This encourages quick reaction times and a high level of agility. This game worked reasonably well, however, given the number of players, it was difficult to administer. If we were to do this again, we would need a greater number of dodgeballs and a better system to collect and recycle those balls.
The main advantage of these games was that they made clear the skills deemed important to indigenous Australian cultures. Their application in a nomadic lifestyle, where it was important to possess an ability to hunt and fight, were simply recreated and easily comprehended in both Puloga and Taktyerrain.