March 26, 2007

last kapula weeks

Hey sorry. I haven't posted for a while. To play catch-up I'll just have to summarise the last couple of weeks, but I'm going to do it in the style of my real banji (brother-in-law), who describes things as a 'F' (big 'f') - which is a good thing and then 'f' (little 'f') - which is a not-so-good thing. Here's a summary of the last couple of weeks working here at Ngukurr:

F - an amazing session working with old MT on Marra. FR and BR were also there, creating a very rare Marra speech community. We recorded some conversation. MT *demanded* I speak Marra to her ("You've been here long enough!"), which was extremely difficult but fun. We translated and transcribed 6 minutes of Marra in 3 hours. JJ and AJ learned some basic skills on ELAN. It was pretty spectacular.
F - helping three artists with stories for their entries to the 27th Telstra Aboriginal Art Award. Not only do I love learning about the art, I also get a lot of satisfaction from knowing the stories are going to be fairly accurate cuz I have a decent level of cultural understanding. But the best part is that the artists are really happy that their stories are being written down well.
f - the rain hasn't stopped and the community is still cut off by road
F - Another workshop for the guys I work with who are enrolled in the Batchelor course for Own Language Work. They're getting through it pretty well. Especially my wawa, AG, who has come so far in two years.
f - Nobody is interested in Nunggubuyu and no one has been teaching Nunggubuyu at the school.
F - JJ gave me a present - a set of beautiful clapsticks. So lovely. (I went to Katherine and he had $350 to buy him a chainsaw. It cost $440 and I said 'don't worry about the rest, but you have to make me something now!'. And he did... hehe... I like it when humbugging works in your favour.)
f - my house in Katherine is getting mouldy and full of weeds and I'm not there to look after it
f - there's somebody in Katherine who I'm missing a bit too much
F - the Waagilak mob here are doing great. Teaching with commitment and enthusiasm. Now I just have convince them to work at language centre everyday and learn to read n write Waagilak... hehehe
F- Our territory MP Barb McCarthy came to visit last week and I had a good chat with her. She really supports what we do, which is lovely.
f - Mal Brough is still our Federal Minister. And that somebody is still PM... but maybe not for long :-)

Any questions? I can expand if you like... otherwise I'll just continue going about my business.

And I should take some photos to make this blog look lively.... hmmm...

March 06, 2007


I learned a cool new Rembarrnga word yesterday.

Me n my wawa were listening to an old recording of him telling a story and halfway, I lost what he was talking about.

"We saw two policeman", he translated for me. But I couldn't hear where he was talking about any blijiman (Kriol for policeman).

And so my wawa taught me that Rembarrnga has its own word for policeman (which is what he said on the recording):


It's my favourite new word which I'm going to use now, and say, "Nguwahjœrrœ baganh!". (There's a policeman there!).

Note: Question for further thought - What's the cultural significance of the fact that the Rembarrnga word for policeman incorporates the Rembarrnga word for 'cheeky' or 'a thing to be wary of'...

March 01, 2007

bunggul man

Last week, I danced bunggul for the first time. (Bunggul is a form of traditional dancing from Arnhem Land.) It was so fun. I loved it, but it was bloody difficult and I was feeling very self-conscious.

Bunggul is performed here for funerals and other ceremonial occasions, like when there is an opening and other things like that. Well, last week, this bloke from England was hanging around and talking to the bunggul mob about touring overseas. (They are very good dancers and musicians). And so they had a bit of a bunggul session at the school so this guy could videotape them. So it wasn’t for any big occasion, that’s why I could pluck up the courage to give it a go. And I’m glad I did.

I’ve been to watch bunggul a few times now and people keep saying to me, half-joking, half-serious, “Come on Wamut, you now!”. I’ve always wanted to have a go, but been too embarrassed. But I thought to myself, I better just do it, or else people will stop asking me and I’ll miss the opportunity. And so I got up and danced, and it was great fun. I was terrible, but was starting to get the hang of it a little bit. But all the guys there that know me were very supportive and happy that I had a go. And next time, I’ll be a little bit better. Yay. I like dancing. It’s good for the soul. And because it’s traditional dancing, that feeling was multiplied by about 1000.