Tyson Mowarin is a journalist, musician, app creator, and proud Ngarluma man. But now he’s added a new title to his credits – card game creator.
Called ‘Who Your Mob?’, Mowarin’s game allow players to explore the elements of language and cultural governance within Indigenous groups local to his Roebourne community in Western Australia.
‘Who Your Mob?’ is also a common greeting amongst Indigenous Australians, whereby new acquaintances learn how they are connected to one another.
“It’s teaching the cultural governance of our area, our skin groups, or the galharra system,” said Mowarin. “It’s the law of the land and governance system Captain Cook said wasn’t here when he landed at Botany Bay.”
Skin groups are a sub-group within certain Indigenous nations often inherited from one's maternal side. Mowarin explains individual’s skin group dictates several elements of daily life from hunting practices, ceremonial practices, behavioural norms within families, the marriage system, and other rules and expectations within the community.
Skin groups can even have different names for different family members and customs.
The aim of the game is to build your family tree using the playing cards. Each card pictures a family member named in both English and a skin group language. The first person to make three sets of four family connections wins.
“Each person has their own deck of cards. You start by laying down three cards. Then you go around in turns picking up a card each. If you can make a family connection, you pick up another card. If not, your turn is over and you go to the next person,” explained Mowarin.
Each deck also features power cards that allow players to pick up additional cards, force other plays to skip turns, or clear another players' entire spread of cards.
Players select their deck of card based on their own gender and skin group. So far, the only decks available are male and female decks for Banaga, Burungu, Garimarra or Balyirri – the four skin groups local to the West Pilbara region of Western Australia, where Mowarin is from.
But that doesn’t preclude all other Indigenous people who don’t identify within that kinship system.
“You play with the deck that is your skin group. But if you don’t have one, you can adopt one. Lots of non-Indigenous people in the area will usually adopt a skin group for themselves. It’s usually in relation to a person they have an affinity with,” Mowarin said.
“So if the Indigenous person they’re close to is like their Nan, then they’ll adopt that person’s skin group as their own.”
So far, Who Your Mob?, is a tangible card game, but Mowarin hopes for the game to eventually have a digital element to it, too.
“I’m always thinking about how to marry technology with our cultural knowledge like I did with the Welcome to Country iPhone app,” he said. “The card game will do the same thing.”
Last week, the cards were been made available to some local communities in Roebourne, but will soon be available for purchase online. Eventually, Mowarin hopes to get Who Your Mob? in schools.
Though they’re only in the early stages, Mowarin is open to creating decks of cards for more skin groups, those local to other parts of Australia.
He said, “People are having a lot of interest in this. But yeah, if anyone would like us to help them get a set of cards for their local skin group, we’d be open.”