Our Languages Matter: An Introduction to Boon Wurrung and Woi Wurrung
“Our language is like a pearl inside a shell. The shell is like the people that carry the language. If our language is taken away, then that would be like a pearl that is gone. We would be like an empty oyster shell.” — Yurranydjil Dhurrkay, Galiwin’ku, North East Arnhem Land
“The loss of language symbolises the loss of culture. For us young mob and our future generations, the survival and revival of our languages is imperative to our very being.”
More than three-quarters of Indigenous Australian languages are already lost, and the survival of almost all the remaining languages are under extreme threat. The loss of language symbolises the loss of culture. For us young mob and our future generations, the survival and revival of our languages is imperative to our very being. Language connects us to culture and country; it helps form our identity. If our language is not known, then our connection to our ancestors and the Dreaming is lost.
“Our Languages Matter” is this year’s NAIDOC week theme. NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week can be traced back to the Australia Day in 1938, when one of the first major civil rights gatherings in the world—a march through the streets of Sydney—protested the status and treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. In 1955, the event date moved to July, so it could be a time not just for protest, but also of celebration. In 1974, the day turned into a week, and so, this week we celebrate language; we celebrate the role of language in cultural identity and are reminded of the responsibility that all Australians have in maintaining and preserving these traditional languages.
This year, the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages identifies thirty-eight languages and eleven language families in Victoria. With Lindsay being founded on Wurundjeri land, we thought we’d take this opportunity to share with you some key words and phrases spoken by two of the tribes within the Kulin nation: Boon Wurrung and Woi Wurrung.
Marramb-ik (what is your name?)
Weelam-ik (where do you live?)
Tarnuk-ut baany (water in the billy/invitation to share food and stories)
Djirri-djirri (willy wagtail/a little black dancing bird)
This piece was written in consultation with Boonwurrung Language Worker and Elder, Aunty Fay Stuart-Muir. These drawings are the artist’s own interpretations of these words and do not reference Indigenous symbols.
Lindsay acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nations where the production of this piece took place. We pay respect to elders—past, present and emerging—and acknowledge that this always was and always will be Aboriginal land and that sovereignty for this land was never ceded.
Shop the Print Issue
Issue No. 1
In Issue No. 1 we meet Australian fashion icon Jenny Kee, translator from Italian Ann Goldstein and French-Cuban music duo Ibeyi. We learn about Ramadan, the Aboriginal ball game Marngrook, the Kiribati dance, the art of pickling, and the importance of home. And we see what it’s like to dress up in Myanmar, live in Cuernavaca, make ceramics from different soil, and walk the streets of Florence.
Issue No. 2
In Issue No. 2 we meet New York-based Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson, and Croatian painter Stipe Nobilo. We discover how the French protect their language and the way women—all around the world—have used textiles as their political voice. We listen to lovers rock, prepare a boisterous Korean barbecue, venture to go to Feria de Jerez and eat our way around Hong Kong.
Issue No. 4
In Issue No. 4 we meet Nigerian-born artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, Indigenous Australian Elders Uncle Bob Smith and Aunty Caroline Bradshaw, and Palestinian-American chef and artist Amanny Ahmad. We peer inside the Parisian ateliers Lesage and Lemarié, muse over the iconic lines of European chair design and celebrate the colourful woodblock prints of Japanese artist Awazu Kiyoshi. And we venture along Morocco’s Honey Highway, get lost in the markets of Oaxaca and discover the favours of Ghana.
Issue No. 5
In Issue No. 5 we travel to the mountains with Etel Adnan, along coastlines wherever waves roll in, and then all over the world through the photographic archive of Lindsay James Stanger. We celebrate hair braiding in South Africa, Salasacan weaving techniques in Ecuador, Vedic jewellery traditions and the new sound of Ukraine. We meet artist Cassi Namoda, choreographer Yang Liping and lace-maker Mark Klauber. And we visit a bakery in Tel Aviv, discover the joys of making arak, and spend a summer stretching mozzarella in Italy.