• 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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  • September 2008
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family

Lara and I are back in Gapuwiyak after a holiday then a trip to Melbourne for my grandfather’s funeral (how easy it is to sum up turbulent times!). I will say something though. The grief that hit me when he died was like all those cliches: a cannon ball, stunned, winded, tearing you apart. I don’t think I have ever experienced being so fully torn from where you are. I had expected this to return at the funeral, but instead during my sisters speech, all I could feel was an immense pride toward him.

Lara is currently studying kinship with her class. She now calls every kid in her class by the way they are related to her – quite a feat. She is also writing a song about family using all the kin terms in English and Yolngu which after a few nights of work we have found impossible (I get a cameo on the guitar). For example, Waku is your sister’s child if you are a man, your child if your are a woman, your dad’s sisters husband and his sister, your great grand daughter and your great grandma, and people in the clan which is the waku clan of your own – and then it extends beyond humans too. So fitting all this into four bars to the chord of C turned into a tongue twister that we dared not attempt.

Talking about waku’s. One of my waku has just had a waku (my daughter has had a son), and one of my sisters has had a son which is my waku – so there are two beautiful babies in the family up here.

I also went to the nearby town of Nhulunbuy (Gove) with Lara’s waku, who is my dad’s sister. Her English name (much like many women her age) is Nancy. She is Old Nancy who lives in the blue house near the lake.

The mornings are cold so when I went to pick her up, together with my brother his wife and kids, Old Nancy was wearing a hoody over her bright floral dress. She was a sight, an old woman with wiry grey hair a slight hunch (slouch) that teenagers can only dream of getting right and a hoody. She also has a mean sense of humor, but sitting behind me her chuckles, which turned into coughs and the smell of tar, were not only joyous but pungent also.

First we went to the Yirrkala Arts Centre to sell some of her baskets. There is no question there and the manager writes her out a cheque. This drew a comment from one of the other staff about such causal acceptance of baskets. The manager’s response: “This lady is one of best weavers around. We buy anything from her we can.” Next was to Westpac where Nancy has her account. Not having a branch in Gapuwiyak and no interpreter service for any Indigenous language, this account easily builds up with the only access done silently through photo ID and a withdrawal slip 250km from her home. Out side the bank she distributes some money amongst family, including giving me about $300. To me! Why? I accept it as to not come across as ungrateful but later ask the man who adopted me about the behavior of his aunt (who is dealing with an very inaccessible account and income quarantining from Centrelink). He smiles, ‘she’s like that’.

The other night we played Taboo. If you don’t know it, it is a game where your team mates have to guess a word that you cannot say, and to make it harder there is a list of words you are also not allowed to say. Say the the word is ‘call centre’. You have to describe this well enough to be guessed without saying, call, centre, telephone, service, remote, switchboard, customer or any variant of or words rhyming with these words. It would go something like this ‘always rings up at dinner time, annoying, India’ and that would probably do it. However, this night we played with a Yolngu boy who is in class 7. He was so nervous and excited that he couldn’t decide whether to tuck his legs as far under him as he could, or try to relax and spread out like the rest of us whities.

Anyway, his turn went something like this:

“So you go away with your parents …” he said.

Shouts begin immediately: Holiday! Vacation! Beach! Plane! You see a poplular method is hit and miss. Say as many words as you can in 30 seconds and hope one is right.

“You are with your parents” he continues looking into the story which is sitting right in front of him. Maybe he thinks, ‘We are almost there, but not yet.’

“You are buying things …”

Shop! Food! Show!

He is still completely unfazed by the raucous shouting.

“And you have this thing with you and you go around …”

“Trolley” some one says and he smiles.

I couldn’t get the evening out of my head for days. Was he playing in a particularly Yolngu way or just like any young kid. What I did gather is that for him it appeared that no hit and miss was necessary. The object of guessing was as clear as day to him you just had to wait until the story got you there. Not hit and miss, by wait and see. My mental note was research is often hit and miss: frantically apply theory after theory until you think it sticks to the ‘real’ world. Well, thanks to this kid, I might try the wait and see method for a while.

[From family]

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