Learn how to play string games
AudienceChildren and families, Early years, Primary school
Learning stageEarly years, Early Stage 1, Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3
Learning areaFirst Nations
On this page...
Many Aboriginal groups traditionally made patterns or designs on the hands with a loop of string. ‘Kamai’ was among the names applied to string figures in north Queensland, ‘meeroo-meeroo’ in one area of Western Australia and ‘wame’ is the word used for string figures in the Torres Strait.
Follow the instructions to create a 'weitj djen' (emu foot), 'rlangga' (billabong) and 'karda' (yam).
- String figures and games were played throughout many First Nations communities in Australia and could entertain young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children for hours.
- String is and was used by many peoples for weaving, art, hunting and fishing. String games have been found in many different cultures and countries around the world!
- You may be familiar with the string game 'cat's cradle', which can be played with two people. Have you ever created shapes or played games with string or twine?
- Can you complete the string games by yourself or do you need someone to help you? See if you can improve over time by practicing.
- How do you think being good at string games may help in other parts of society or in a community? Is there anything else string, knots or rope are used for?
- Develop your own string game and write down step-by-step instructions like the ones below. You can even record a video of your new string game to make it easier for other people to copy!
Watch the videos and download the three sets of instructions to learn how to make kamai, or string figures.
Weitj djen (emu foot) string figure – Noongar language from Balardung Country, Western Australia.
Rlangga (billabong) string figure – Ngalakgan language from Warndarrang Country, Northern Territory.
Kardra (yam) string figure – Yandruwandha language from Innamincka Country (region of north-east South Australia).