An Australian Aboriginal Foundation Myth: The Two Wawilak Sisters

Evening class

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Chris Knight

An Australian Aboriginal Foundation Myth: The Two Wawilak Sisters

Tuesday, February 7, 2017 - 18:45

Recorded in numerous versions, the story of the Two Wawilak Sisters is probably the best-known of all Aboriginal Australian myths. It explains the origins of the whole of Aboriginal culture, locating the source of magic and ritual in two young women's synchronized menstruation. Once this myth has been understood, it opens the door to the wonders of Aboriginal mythology as a whole. This evening's talk will be illustrated with many beautiful works of Aboriginal art.

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Evening class information

Our evening talks include discussion, are free and open to all.

Next evening class

Frederique Darragon

Ancient Matriarchies Of The Chinese Borderlands: Myth Or Reality?
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - 18:45
Daryll Forde Seminar Room, Anthropology Building, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW. Tube: Euston Square. map

From time immemorial, numerous illiterate tribes have created, through the impossible terrain of the Sino-Tibetan Marches, fiercely independent kingdoms which thrived until the early 20th century. Many of them pledged allegiance to the Chinese Empire, as did the little-studied matriarchal “Nu Er Guos” queendoms described in the Chinese Annals until 742. Today, these regions are less isolated, but in spite of the Chinese influence, polyandry is making a come-back. Marriage-less matrilineal societies still flourish in a few remote valleys and courtship customs implying that women would cherry-pick among pretenders have only recently disappeared. Could this unusual state of affairs be the remains of these ancient matriarchal queendoms?
Or is it also that the extreme remoteness of these realms has preserved age-old traditions once common elsewhere? Both Chinese and Greek earliest texts stated that people “knew their mothers but not their fathers.”
I will argue that, contrary to current western androcentric assumptions, patriarchy is not timeless and the nuclear family is not universal. Rigorous ethnographic scholarship demonstrates that around the globe humans have adopted many different reproductive strategies, all of which were successful and many of which endured until today despite the spread of monotheistic religions and globalization. Time has come for academia to base its claims on facts rather than theories whose primary purpose was, and still is, to justify the status quo.