“Every language is a universe”
ILF founder Suzy Wilson has just returned from the annual Garma Festival, held on YolÅ‹u country in north-east Arnhem Land.
Suzy was there with ILF Ambassador Ann James, Ann Haddon from Books Illustrated and some of our team for the launch of Nha Nhunu Nhangal (I Saw, We Saw). This beautiful book, which showcases Yolngu country, was written and illustrated by a group of students from Nhulunbuy Primary School.
ILF Program Manager Leonie Short emcee’ed the launch, pointing out that Yolngu community elders, the student authors, their amazing teachers, and ILF team members had all been involved in making the book – a truly collaborative effort.
Award-winning author and ILF Ambassador Richard Flanagan was unable to be there in person to do the launch honours, as hoped, but renowned Australian artist Ben Quilty stepped up and delivered Richard’s speech for him.
“Every language is a universe, and each universe allows us to understand what it is to be human in a different, larger and richer way. Like a basket woven out of many pieces of grass, many languages make our societies stronger and better.”
— Richard Flanagan, author and ILF Ambassador
Richard’s words, powerfully resonant in this, UNESCO’s International Year of Indigenous Languages, were followed by some readings from the Dhangu language edition of this very special book, with six of its young contributing authors taking turns at the microphone.
In the audience were proud parents and families, who had travelled down from Nhulunbuy for the occasion, along with teachers from the school and a full tent of festival goers.
Teacher Shane Ogg spoke of how significant this book, ILF’s most recent Community Publishing Project, has been for the Yolngu Matha-speaking community on the Gove Peninsula.
“This project has been incredibly important to the community, the families, the kids. I can’t think of anything that has made more of an impact in the last four or five years.”
During the festival, Suzy learnt a few words in Yolngu, including the phrase buku-larrnngay, which translates as “when you’re facing east in the morning and you feel the first rays of sunlight touch your cheek”.
“To be able to think and share about culture and the land and country,” says Suzy, “it was a real privilege to be there.”
Copies of Nha Nhunu Nhangal? have been gifted to its student creators as well as to Dhangu-speaking communities in Arnhem Land, including schools at Nhulunbuy and Yirrkala so kids who speak Yolngu Matha can read this book in their own language.
Copies of another version in English with some Yolngu Matha words, I Saw We Saw, will be gifted to other remote schools through our Book Supply program, as well as be available for sale. Pre-order your copy here, or if you're a bookshop, through Pan McMillan.