Writing and illustrating 9 books over two workshops is a big and ambitious task for most authors and illustrators. But the women of Binjari community, 20km west of Katherine in the Northern Territory, have done just that. This exciting collaborative project with the Binjari Community, the Australian National University, HarperCollins, 1010 Printing and our Foundation will see these 9 books published later this year, all of which are in Kriol (with English translations). Kriol is the largest contemporary Aboriginal language spoken in Australia today, stretching from the Kimberleys in Western Australia through to the Gulf areas in Queensland. Once published, copies of these fantastic books will be gifted to their amazing creators, community members, and organisations operating across all Kriol speaking communities, such as schools, playgroups and healthcare centres.
This month saw the second round of ILF writing and illustration workshops with linguist, Denise Angelo, who has shared her experience of the project so far.
Binjari Buk (Binjari Books) by Denise Angelo, Linguist and PhD candidate Australian National University and affiliate of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language
When I asked how I could contribute to the Binjari community while I do PhD research on Kriol, people suggested that I could work with the women on Kriol literacy. And that’s what we did! It all started just two years ago when unemployed women from Binjari community were given the opportunity to get training in reading and writing in Kriol. The women from Binjari have been building their Kriol literacy skills over the past few years.
Most Binjari residents speak Kriol as a first language (or sometimes a second), but like most Kriol speakers they have not learned to read and write Kriol at school. A couple of training workshops gave the women an introduction to the way Kriol is written. They really took to it: They developed alphabet charts and a wall dictionary. They displayed their Kriol stories outside the community office and got lots of positive feedback. And they found they could read with great enjoyment the stories that had been written by Binjari elder Maureen Hodgson some decades earlier. These experiences gave rise to the idea of making books for Binjari kids in Kriol.
I contacted the ILF and discussed the project with them. They were very keen to be involved and offer support. As a result, two workshops were planned, one writing and one illustrating. The women put in a fantastic effort at the writing workshop at the start of 2017, which aimed to develop texts suitable for board books, storybooks and early chapter books. Some marvelous stories came out of that workshop, such as Moli det bigibigi (Molly the pig) the story of a piglet who discovers breakfast cereal and grows bigger than all the dogs that once picked on her. Or Tudei en longtaim (Now and then), a reflection on the many differences between modern life and the olden days.
Having produced such wonderful stories, the next step was to illustrate them. So the ILF approached Julie Haysom, an amazing artist and illustrator, to work with the women to illustrate their stories with Cindy Manfong from ILF and myself from ANU assisting. Julie’s artistic skills and insightful guidance gave everybody confidence to have a go at drawing and painting all kinds of subjects using lots of different materials. Everybody got involved and in just over a week the workshop produced literally hundreds of illustrations for the Binjari Books. An amazing effort and just so enjoyable.
Sylvia Maroney, a Binjari local and administrator for the Community Development Project run by Roper Gulf Regional Council, who has supported the project from its beginning, is thrilled. “I’m so proud of the women and everything they have done. They have worked really hard. These books are going to be so good for our kids.”
Read more about the ILF Community Literacy Projects program.