Singing the Land, Signing the Land

Now inspect the series of photographs (ITEM 6.2), and the written account in both languages (ITEM 6.3) of the procedures for ŋathu production. Buŋgul preparation of ŋathu constitutes a negotiation within a context of knowledge production. It is both negotiation among people as members of associated Yolngu clans, and negotiation between people and land. Land is kin just as surely as other Yolngu are kin. In the process of this negotiation, there are certain 'structural' procedures which support the serious 'business' of the buŋgul. In ITEM 6.3 we see an analogy between the preparation of ŋalhu in the proper buŋgul way and the procedures that should be adopted for producing a proper written text. It was produced as a way of explaining to non-Aboriginal Australians the proper procedures for decision making in education. Thus, it elaborates the negotiations through which elements of the Yolngu world may be rendered into written texts.

The making of bread from the fruit of cycads


A series of photographs which detail the making of ŋathu (bread) from the fruit of cycads. Photographs: Neville White.

An analogy between the processes of producing ŋathu and Yolngu ideas about curriculum development

Wangurri Dhäruk


Curriculum process

Dinyguwuy dhawu ŋarru Wangurrimurru. Nhama ŋalma bayiŋ guŋurru banha bayiŋ barrun nhanpayi mayaŋuwauji dinyguwu.

Gathering food and carrying to one place on their head.

Gathering opinions and thoughts of all involved in the task or project. Putting the ideas and opinions into a form that can be carried by writing notes of what people have said.

Dhaŋum bayiŋ warraṯthun bilma bala maŋutji liyyuna bala warraṯthun maŋutji Lankarrkarrna.

Isolating the shell from the flesh using two sticks.

Identifying the big and important ideas and leaving out the things that are not related to these things.

Bala räljumana banha Lankarrkarrna dinygu barrukalalin goŋ waŋgany walu

Classifying into different named categories on the basis of shape and size.

Deciding what are the different headings that the document that is being produced should have and sorting the ideas into these categories - making up the Table of Contents.

Nutjurru wulanyna bala buluk'thuna bala warrṯ thuna yilipi bala dhi thuŋ gana bala yihpi'lin.

Lanara is mixed with ash, maŋutji and left.
(a) left in the sun for two days,
(b) collect ŋathu into a bag,
(c) soak in water,
(d) prepare the grinding stones, fire shade etc.

Leave the document alone for some lime and then go through it to make sure that the main sorting of ideas is correct. Identify the bits that are 'soft' and where the sense is still hard to understand.

Bala bayiŋ warraṯthuna yilpimi bala gutjparruna bala garmoklin, bala wadapthumana lurrkun walu ga widipiyam banha walu warraṯthundawun dinyguwun.

Check the bags in the water, if soft leave in the water for two more days, the rest is taken for preparation.

Make some changes and leave it open for some time. Rewrite the bits that need to be rewritten.

Bala ŋaljiḻmiŋan gunhan dhirrimulma ga baṉkakkal ga buṉbum warraw, dinyguwun.

Grind nuts keeping the categories that were created in the sorting separate from each other.

Make sure that the meeting that the document is being prepared for is well organised.

Gonhana ŋathum barrukalatin, bala garrwiyuna bala buḻukthundam djinygu balwurryun garrwiyun bala lirrmayuna banha ŋathum ŋurrtjaḻim ma ŋarru ŋalwuruŋtji guwarunma. Guwarunmana ŋathum garrwiyundam raŋanmi.

The flour is covered with paper bark and secured with baḻwurr (string); according to law ḏilak (elders) ŋathu must be grinded first. The packages of ŋathu are put into the hot ashes.

Present the finished document to those who make the decisions. After those who make the decisions have seen the document, then it is generally given out. At a meeting a general agreement about the document is reached and its form is agreed upon.

Goŋanha ŋathum nhamuny mittji, bapurru malany . linygu rom gayŋa barraŋgayun ŋätjil ga djinaŋbala.

The food is then shared according to law.

The plan is used by those who should use it.

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