My 103 year old mother was a stickler for good posture until almost her last breath. “Don’t slouch, keep your shoulders back,” she would say. In a world weary outback there is no evidence of her influence but her words still ring in my ears. What would she say now?
In this culture politeness dictates subservience, or at best avoidance. One does not create conflict by looking the other in the eye. The general demeanour seems to require a person, when meeting another of authority, to not meet him/her with equal posture. Else it be seen as a challenge. Thus correct posture is not so formal.
One posture commonly seen is sitting. When we southerners sit. Using a single word covers nearly all postures. Possibly because most of the sitting we do is done on chairs. The Walpiri and the Anmatyerr have many words for different sitting positions.
It soon becomes apparent the local women working at the school prefer to sit on the ground. They do this despite the school having picnic tables with attached seating. On the face of it you wonder why they prefer the ground until you realise the insensitivity of the authority providing aluminium seating. It is too hot or too cold (depending on the weather). Silly really.
However in camp the men and women prefer to sit on the ground. So it is not so strange to sit that way when in the school ground.
With the aid of the dictionaries produced by IAD Press here are some examples.
To lie resting propped on one elbow in the Walpiri language is, arlkany
To sit and lie back on ones legs using an arm as a prop is Rtwapety anem (w)Murdu- purrjupurrju Anmatyerr (a)
To sit with legs crossed and outstretched Wipi – yarrayarra
For a group of women to sit together Mapirri
To relax even more and lie supine looking at the sky with your knees tucked up to your buttocksRyakwork (a)
Finally it is most common to observe men and women standing for long periods with their hands linked behind them. This posture is ngarningirri and Arnegerr in (a)
My mother would have loved to have more words on posture rather that just say, “sit properly”.