Painted Stories: Linking country, art and culture for language revival
Paper presented at the 5th International Conference on Language Documentation & Conservation Vital Voices: Linking Language & Wellbeing at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa, Honolulu
On 27th February 2017, Indigenous Wik & Kugu Language Experts and Artists from Aurukun, Mavis Ngalametta, Vera Koomeeta and Ada Woolla, along with Artist/Art Therapist Gina Allain and Linguist Louise Ashmore, travelled from Aurukun to attend and present a paper at the 5th International Conference on Language Documentation & Conservation Vital Voices: Linking Language & Wellbeing at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa, Honolulu, March 2 – 5, 2017.
Attending and participating at the international conference and associated events showcased the activities and outcomes of three collaborative language and art projects developed by the Aurukun community to support the Indigenous languages Wik-Mungkan, Wik-Alken/Wik-Ngatharr, Wik-Ngathan and Kugu Uwanh.
The presentation Painted Stories: Linking country, art and culture for language revival considered the role of art in the creative transmission of cultural and linguistic knowledge. The talk explored the potential for combining art therapy, language documentation and oral history methods in reconnecting community, country and language in First Nation language revival work. Notions of wellbeing and the relationship with country, language and creative practices were explored in discussion about the outcome of the projects: Oonyawa: From Museum back to Country, Painted Stories and Life Stories.
Their presence at the conference was appreciated by everyone attending and their presentation was a great success with the ladies ending their session with a song in Wik Mungkan.
Importantly, attendance at the international conference provided Aurukun artists and Language Experts an opportunity to share their experiences of language maintenance, to positively promote and showcase aspects of their culture and artistic practices and to learn about how other communities around the world are reviving and maintaining their own Indigenous languages for improved wellbeing.
They met other language experts from around the world and made new friends and had a great experience. They swam at Waikiki, visited Pipeline, Had cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory and visited cultural centres including the USS Arizona Memorial, at Pearl Harbor and Bishops Museum which is the Hawaii State Museum of Natural and Cultural History which showcases Hawaiian and other Pacific cultures.
On the closing night of the conference, artist and Kugu Elder, Mavis Ngallametta led the audience in a traditional women’s dance celebrating the coming together of people from around the world to share their languages, cultures and experiences of Vital Voices.