Word of the Month - Celebrating Walmajarri in the UNESCO Year of Indigenous Languages

Word of the Month - Celebrating Walmajarri in the UNESCO Year of Indigenous Languages

Lungkura is a Walmajarri word meaning blue-tongued lizard.

Walmajarri is an Australian Indigenous language. It is mainly spoken in the Great Sandy Desert and parts of the East Kimberley region of WA. The three dialects of Walmajarri are quite distinct due to the large distances between communities of speakers and the relative lack of contact among them. These days, many Walmajarri speakers no longer live on cattle stations or church-run missions but are spread over a wide area, living in small towns and communities across the region, including Junjuwa (Fitzroy Crossing), Yakanarra, Bayulu, Wangkajungka (Christmas Creek), Looma, Djugerari (Cherrabun), Yungngora, Millijidee, Mukan, Mindibungu (Bililuna) and Ngumpan.

The blue-tongued lizard goes by a few names: blue-tongued skink, blue-tongue and sometimes simply “bluey”. It’s mainly known for its large blue tongue, which is sometimes poked out to ward off potential enemies. Blue-tongued lizards are quite shy and move more slowly than other lizards due to their short legs. This makes them relatively easy to catch. Blue-tongues feature in some traditional Walmajarri stories. They are often associated with fire, and sometimes depicted as tricksters or even sorcerers.

Ten of the songs in Yakanarra Song Book are in Walmajarri. Two Yakanarra elders, Mary Purnjurr Vanbee and Jessie Wamarla Moora, worked with community members to reproduce these songs that had been created by Walmajarri teachers during the 1980s and 1990s so that the children living in Yakanarra community did not lose their first language. The four songs in English were created by students at Yakanarra Community School in workshops run by well-known children’s author and illustrator Alison Lester, and musician Chris Aitken. These students also produced the beautiful illustrations.

Yakanarra Song Book lets you learn not only a few words in Walmajarri but also about what life is like for kids living in this remote Western Australian community. The book was published in 2017 by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation as part of our Community Literacy Projects program.

  • Posted 01 August, 2019

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