Back in 2019, our team headed off for the first time to the remote islands in the Torres Strait, off the tip of the Cape York Peninsula.
Along with ILF Board member and Badhu yoepkazz (woman) Leitha Assan, and Ella Kris from the Torres Strait, they facilitated a series of writing and illustration workshops in collaboration with community members and schools on Boigu, Saibai and Dauan Islands.
Their aim was to create children’s books written in Kalaw Kawaw Ya (KKY), a dialect of Kala Lagaw Ya, the traditional language spoken on the three islands.
Almost two full years later, two of the five books, Swimming in the Rain and Helping Aka are almost ready for publication, with ILF Program Administrator and Torres Strait Islander Seeba stepping in to help the final stage of the project.
Once finalised and published, these books will be gifted to those island communities where the language is spoken and taught through language and culture lessons to the children.
“These books are very reflective of life and culture in the Torres Strait Islands,” says Seeba.
Take Swimming in the Rain for example - it’s all about what students from the school do when there’s a big rain. Children from Boigu and the Torres Strait Islands pay a lot of attention to the weather, particularly thunder, lightning and rain clouds. Weather is even a totem. Helping Aka is the same, the book is all about what children living on the Islands would experience in their homes.”
Leitha and Seeba are both incredibly passionate about their languages, and preserving them so that future generations can continue to learn to read and speak it.
“I’m incredibly excited to see these books published, because there aren’t many opportunities to publish stories in Torres Strait Island languages,” explains Seeba.
“From hearing about the books to seeing the covers, and now adding the translations to the inside, it’s very special to me. I can see that these books will help our children stay strong in culture and language, and be read and loved for generations to come.”