• working/reading

    I am reading through 'both ways' literature of Yolngu and non-Yolngu working their knowledge systems together. Alongside I am reading Lorraine Code's 2006 book Ecological Thinking. I am also browsing through blogs and discussions on knowledge work and community development.
  • About this Blog

    Here I post some of my work and thinking. It is a much harder task than I thought! It is an extension of my research on knowledge and difference connecting my experiences, reflections, formal written pieces, and hopefully friends and colleagues. As work and self cannot be separate this blog is both personal and intellectual. Comments are moderated because, while it is a site for collective work, it is not anonymous.
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  • February 2008
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Wolmamirr

If you thought Christmas started early around shopping centres, catalogues stands and ad breaks, it certainly starts early in Arnhemland. Last month, I was sitting in the shade talking with a forty or fifty year old couple about how people use and talk about numbers and how they had worked their way into Yolngu lives. After first having these conversations with me talking about what I think I have learnt or observed this year with my adopted family, this couple were one of the collections of people I was told I should speak to. So we sat talking, the red light on the recorder keeping us all a little self aware, except for the kids and dogs that casually walked in, sat down, looked around, took some food I had brought (the kids) or where shooed off (the dogs). Others came and went getting order to buy fuel, taking money, returning with more food and generally sorting out the coming weekend. The most enduring task through out the interview was the copying of Maria Carey’s Christmas collection from a CD onto a a tape. At the end of the interview, only seconds after we had stood up, the man I was interviewing flipped the tape into a walkman with speaker and started playing the music. The music was to accompany is life from then on. So this is Christmas.

So Christmas time is wolmamirr time. That is the season of thunder – wolma, before the wet sinks in. Huge cloud pillars rise all around in the afternoons often bringing torrential rain, lightening and thunder. Particular clouds rise over particular country and can be recognised bringing with them the people who are no longer living. It is a season of joy but also sorrow, held together at once. Christmas and Wolmamirr are not separate either. So as soon as those bright white pillars begin, so do the familiar tunes that you begin to hum or sway to before you are conscious of their broadcast on mobile phones, walkmans, stereos, school PAs.

There is a music in the thunder too. When it first began I couldn’t help just sitting on the veranda and watch the darkened sky approach. The thunder was almost like its marching music, steadily growing, keeping the clouds on the move. Some thunder sounds like wide iron sheets wobble and warp as they are picked up or worked with, or large banners in a city being hit by wind. Sometimes it is a subtle as a door slam in a house in another camp. Some times it lands on the roof with a great shuddering thud. But you know it is close when it is no longer a deep boom. Most of the time air is so permissive, but when lightening needs to find its way through a few hundred metres away the thunder no longer booms. It tears at the air, intensifying into a noise that cannot be large iron sheeting or doors slamming or anything but thunder. After one of these a flickering fluorescent light is enough to make one duck.

The growing regularity of these storms forced a quick change of plans with the school Christmas concert. First scheduled Tuesday afternoon, it now had to be Wednesday morning. The PA was set up, streamers across the school assembly area, and staff and students alike walking around humming the tune of what is was they were to perform.

[From Wolmamirr]