Appendix 4: Skin names 1

Psychiatric Assessment in Remote Aboriginal Communities of Central Australia
Aboriginal skin systems group various categories of relations together. The whole tribe may be divided into 2, 4, 6, or 8 parts. In Central Australia, the best known example of this is the Warlpiri and Arrente.

A person is born into one of the 8 groups (subsections as they are known technically) and thus acquires, in addition to his personal name, the name belonging to that skin group. His father belongs to a different skin group, his mother belongs to another, his wife to another.

Use of the Arrente Skin Names chart will help to clarify how children gain a skin name.

Below are listed the Arrente skin names, with the Warlpiri equivalent.

    Arrente Warlpiri
    Women Men
    Ngale Nangala Jangala
    Mipetyane Nampijinpa Jampijinpa
    Perrurle Napurrula Japurrula
    Kemarre Nakamarra Jakamarra
    Kngwarraye Nungarrayi Jungarrayi
    Peitharre Napaljarri Japaljarri
    Penangke Napanangka Japanangka
    Pengarte Napangardi Japangarci
    In some Aboriginal societies – Pitjantjatjara – generation level is important, having no skin groups.

    There are two generation levels:

    • ones own generation level – nganantarka or ngananari
    • second generation level – tjanamiitjanpa or inurrpa.

    People separated from each other by generation are regarded as belonging to the same generation level (referred to as ‘harmonic’ generations).

    People of adjacent generations are regarded as belonging to different generation levels (referred to as ‘disharmonic’ generations).

    One must marry into one’s own generation level, not into the opposite one; and not within one’s own camp, or countryman.

    Grandparents < <
    Parents <
    ‘disharmonic’ ‘harmonic’
    Children < <

    Arrernte Skin Names 2
    (for full size click image)