Ngadjonji History of the Rainforest People
Note: this site contains images of aboriginal people now deceased
The Ngadjonji were highly skilled at quickly making fire (buni)
and the hearth fire, used for cooking, light and warmth, was at the centre
of Ngadjonji daily life.
Photo from the collection of A.Nye
Fire was made using firesticks. A straight stick of hardwood (preferably jiman) was
rapidly twirled between the hands while its end was pressed into a hollow
in a flat piece of softwood (usually jaanggany)
held on the ground. The friction between the two firesticks caused a bunch
of dry grass or other tinder material, laid around the tip of the twirling
stick, to begin to smoulder. The tinder was then blown into flame.
This picture shows two boys making fire in the traditional way. The older
boy is rapidly twirling the firestick while the younger is blowing to
bring the fire to life.
Cooking was done in different ways according to what was being cooked:
Large pieces of meat and seeds which had to be processed to remove
poisons (see Food Processing)
were usually slowly cooked in the moist heat of an earth oven. A
shallow pit was dug and lined with round stones. A fire was built over
the stones. When the stones were hot enough, the fire was raked away
and the food, wrapped in green leaves, was laid on the hot stones.
More leaves were spread over the food parcels and then earth and ashes
from the fire were raked over the heap and the fire rekindled on top.
When the food was cooked, the top of the oven was carefully cleared
away and the food taken out.
Most smaller animals, birds and fish were cooked simply by baking in
the coals of an open fire in the hearth.
Some foods were cooked more gently by wrapping in leaves and laying
in the embers or on hot stones at the edge of the fire.
Snakes and, especially, eels were cooked on a spit. A green sapling
was supported horizontally above the fire by two forked sticks. The
snake or eel was wrapped around the sapling and tied in place. The
spit was turned over the fire until the food was done (about an hour
for eels to remove the oiliness).
Flaming torches, made from sticks of the very flammable jidu,
were used for night fishing and at other times when light was needed away
from the campfires.