The vibrant illustrations by artist Aunty Shaa Smith that accompany the stories in the new Gumabynggirr Yuludarla Jandaygam were, she said, a pleasure and a privilege to paint.
Aunty Shaa, who is also the chair of the Muurrbay Language and Cultural Centre where the book was created, said the book gave a voice to country in a way that was beyond the concrete Western concept of words on pages.
“This is more than a book – it is a heart beat, a soul song that contains thousands of years of knowledge … I honour all those who have created it,” she said.
“It is so special to hear this beautiful language being spoken in the audience – this is our dreaming and here we are sharing it. That is a wonderful confirmation for our culture and our country.”
The book was launched to a packed house at the Nambucca Community and Arts Centre on Wednesday morning.
Its gestation was an unexpectedly long five years, given the original estimation was about six months supported by a $20,000 NSW Government grant.
Muurrbay CEO and co-editor of the book, Gary Williams, said the number of stories kept expanding and now includes more than 17 from all corners of Gumbaynggirr country.
Fellow editor Dallas Walker honoured the people, the plants, the mountains and the rivers that make up the stories.
“I acknowledge all this and our ancestors … this book is about the land we walk on and the language is what makes us who we are,” Dallas said.
Master of Ceremonies and language teacher Michael Jarrett said as a child he heard only single words spoken.
“This has now built up into sentences … and further down the track our language will be truly alive again,” Michael said.
“I stand here as a proud black Gumbaynggirr man – it is a great feeling and one I want to share.”
Dancers Girrwa Galambilanyarr and Jalay Jalay (made up of students from Orara High) entertained the crowd, as did Woolgoolga High School’s Gumbaynggirr Language Choir.
The book is dedicated to the memory of Uncle Ken Walker, a driving force behind language renewal and Murrbbay for many years.
To purchase a copy ($50) contact Murrbbay Language Centre on 65694294