YADHAYKENU LIVING LIBRARY
The Yadhaykenu language was once widely spoken along the east coast of Northern Cape York Peninsula. Today, Meun Lifu – known as Uncle Shorty – is the only living speaker.
Some time early in the 1900’s, after surviving decades of brutal conflict with Frank Jardine and his allies, the remaining Yadhakenu travelled west across the cape to establish the Cowal Creek settlement – now Injinoo – with their Angkamuthi and Atambaya neighbours.
Born in the middle of World War II at Cowal Creek, Uncle Shorty has witnessed the rise of Bamaga, Seisia, New Mapoon and ultimately Umagico. He has seen these communities change from their traditional names (Ichirru, Ithunja, Mandingu and Lalawu respectively) to their modern ones reflecting the cultural identities of their current populations.
A natural raconteur, Uncle Shorty, Pama Language Centre composer Joshua McHugh and linguist Xavier Barker spent time together turning his stories to song. The result of this collaboration marks the dawn of Yadhaykenu literature and the beginnings of Yadhaykenu revival. In this song, Uncle Shorty tells the story of encounters with apudthinngal wuchuma – the three brown snakes – during his time as a ranger.
Uncle Shorty is working with Pama Language Centre to re-engage Yadykenu youth with their language and to develop foundational literature and learning resources to support Yadhaykenu revival.