Inspiration for The Min-Min

Knobby, an Aboriginal character

Banjo, an Australian Aborigine who Mavis Thorpe Clark was introduced to during her first visit to outback South Australia becomes the important character of Knobby in The Min-Min. Here she describes his camp:

"Banjo reminded me very much of Doug Nicholls, in build, in blackness of skin, even in features; not very tall, but with wide square shoulders, straight back and a look of physical strength about him. His bristling white moustache and beard stood out on the black skin, his eyes were bright, alert. There was a deep tone to his voice. Behind his ear was a bit of chewed leaf from the native tobacco bush, the pitubi of the desert. His wurlie at the side of the tank was built with mulga branches and lined with sheafs of bush, with a tarpaulin over all.

Inside the wurlie, his wife Nellie lay on a kangaroo skin. She was old and toothless and suffering from crippling arthritis, so that she could barely stand. Rosy, about 50, with greying yellowy hair, had come into the camp just as the van pulled up. She had a good figure. She walked gracefully, one arm steadying the carcase of the dead kangaroo balanced on her head.

- Trust the Dream (1999) page 155.

Sylvie and Reg, who are making their way across the desert, come across "Knobby" and his camp:

"Knobby was an old man, but his shoulders were square and his back straight. He was not very tall and his legs and arms were bony like those of most of his race. White whiskers bristled in separate spikes out of a black skin. His eyes were quiet but bright - not filmy with age...

He turned and spoke, in his native tongue, to the two women, both his wives. The older one, Aggie, looked older than he did and the younger, Betty, was probably not much more than fifty. Both women were clad in ragged cotton dresses ... Betty was the hunter, with her dogs, for the three of them...

Betty took the kangaroo from her head, and laid it in the earth oven Knobby had ready and waiting. It was a hole already lined with hot ashes, and Betty threw the kangaroo, as it was, into the hole, and drew further hot ashes from the fire alongside and covered the carcass."

- The Min-Min (1966) pages 86-87.

See also The Min-Min

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Photo: Black man and white man against the red desert.

Banjo with Mavis' husband Harold Latham, 1960.

Photo: Wurlie (aboriginal campsite).

Banjo's campsite - Banjo with his younger wife, Rosie.

Photo: Wurlie (aboriginal campsite).

Banjo's campsite - Banjo's younger wife, Rosie (standing), and his older wife, Nellie.