Akangkwirreme, listen deeply


The strongest thing I want to say to our children today is: don’t forget our culture. It is important. Listen to the old people, don’t just turn away. Listen respectfully to what they say, and go forward.

To teach children we must tell the stories, take them out bush, move around out there with them. Go out hunting, look for what you want to find, talk to them about what you’re looking for. It is survival. […] Think deeply, tell stories, talk about what you do – that is how our children learn best, doing things. It is also a way to teach other people from outside our culture – show them our country.[…]

To all the other children and people I would say: Come, listen to us, we will tell you our culture. Learn from us. That way we will all survive. […] We must do things together: respecting, listening and thinking, doing things together, not just talking all the time. Sometimes think, just lest there be silence. You must learn to wait, let your thoughts come back to you. Understand how the other person might be feeling too, appreciate you might not know the answer or understand the question. That’s what it means to work in a cross cultural way. Respect has to flow both ways, learning too. […] I hope you listen deeply and let these stories in. These stories are for all time, for the old days, to help remember the old people, but also for the future and for young people now. In return for the stories from our elders, we had to give the food we had hunted – it was what we had to do to learn, sharing means our survival.

Kathleen Kemarre Wallace (with Judy Lovell),  Listen Deeply, Let These Stories In, Alice Springs: IAD Press, 2009,  pp. 170, 171. Wallace, born in 1948, is an artist and storyteller of the Eastern Arrente people of Central Australia.
Illustration inspired by a drawing made on a pumpkin in Ghana.

“He was male and female…”


He was male and female, seducer and seduced. He was glutton, he was cuckold, he was weary traveller. He would claw his lizard-feet sideways, then freeze and cock his head. He would lift his lower lid to cover the iris, and flick out his lizard-tongue. He puffed his neck into goitres of rage; and at last, when it was time for him to die, he writhed and wriggled, his movements growing fainter and fainter like the Dying Swan’s.

Then his jaw locked, and that was the end.

The man in blue waved towards the hill and, with the triumphant cadence of someone who has told the best of all possible stories, shouted: ‘That … that is where he is!’

The performance had lasted not more than three minutes.

Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines, Londres: Pan Books, 1988, p 117.
Illustration based on a Haida amulet (Great Blue Heron and Human), kept in the Royal British Columbia Museum