Published in Overland Issue 240 Spring 2020 · Culture / Aboriginal Australia Say sorry to the land Wanta Jampijinpa There’s a saying. If you can live in this country. Don’t forget about the emu. We teach it to soar. Would you like to come hunting with me? I’m only saying this because if you want to achieve something, you go hunting. Does that mean you can go hunting today? Are you going hunting? I can see that you’re sitting down and not hunting. Do you agree with me that you’re not hunting? But to me, it’s hunting time. Push your mind to understand the stories, try to achieve meaning in the stories. I grew up in the northern compass point. I’m Jampijinpa…. I’m… two skin groups. Skin groups that’s cut in half. One’s a sky moiety and one’s an earth moiety. But my son and my father and my partner – they all belong to the sky moiety. That’s Milpirri. That’s the rain dreaming. The first ever Milpirri story. By the way Milpirri is… I always have trouble saying this word… Cumulus clouds or something? The hot wind from earth meets the cold wind from the sky and they create this cloud. Lightning. Then the two winds come. One is from above and one is from the land. So, that is something about me and you. From opposites. Story about you too. And that’s a metaphor. Once we get to understand the two winds, they then say, it comes around and it brings all of us together to participate. What it’s always been. Australia you call it. I call it in Warlpiri, Ngatilyka. The Yolgnu people call it Ngatilyka too. The Arnhem people down in the Centre call it Ngatilyka. It’s the original name for this country. Then someone came and called it Australia. I don’t know what dreaming he came from. They say Milpirri speaks. You talk to country, country talks back- through the wind, it mostly talks through the wind. And if the sound is coming from the land it gives us words. When it gives us words, it gives us language. When it gives us language, it gives us our songs. And when it gives us our songs, it gives us our ceremony and our teachings in our ceremony. And when it does that, we learn that it makes us full. Full with the knowledge of this country. That’s what we’re going to hunt, that’s what we can achieve and bring it back to the people. I know you don’t call knowledge food but to us it is something to feed on. That’s the stomach. This is a stomach. If you want to learn more about yourself. You don’t allow this country to talk to you? Well it’s not my fault! That’s your fault. My uncle gave me the name Wantarri and that’s a gift. Gift dance. We’re exchanging gifts on that gift road. Different language groups, different tribal groups. It’s always been like that and someone came up from the Eastern side and stopped us. Stopped the gift road on the trading route from the West coast to the East coast. We got lirra (mouth) and we got the end bit. It’s not a good word… the end bit. Shall I say it? Right… I guess I have to ask permission for me to use that word… if there’s a mouth on one end of the coast, there’s an anus at the other end…. Sorry! We’re talking about the digestive system yeah? The country, the country runs… all through the digestive system. The emu when he grows up the little ones, he gets to eat all the favourite emu food. Seed, stone, some plants, insects, all that and he wants to sleep a little. Then he falls asleep and sleeps slowly, slowly. And then there’s a sound, he gets diarrhea, diarrhea. That’s a big sound yes… there’s a songline about that. My old man doesn’t like singing that one so he gets us to sing it. It’s a metaphor for people overseas. You want to learn about this country? What do you guys make of it… the big sound that scares the little ones … they fell asleep and they woke up with it… their father… they see this big gooey mess in front of them. To get to their father they have to pass the diarrhea but.. who’s going to feed on the diarrhea… the little one start picking pick up the insects, the berries, everything… in that diarrhea… the emu accepts… those ones, that’s telling him… yes they’re willing to accept me as their main teacher. If they don’t pick at it, it leaves them vulnerable to the snakes, prey or the dingo. While for those who pick… he gives his life for them. Sometimes white man’s culture is that diarrhea. Sometimes black man’s culture is your diarrhea. But if you learn to pick up food that puts nourishment in you. So the emu will teach you. Yeah. That’s the dreaming story. The metaphor for why that emu makes that diarrhea. I’m sharing this wisdom. Another man’s culture looks like that too. Maybe there’s some goodness in there. Doesn’t matter whose culture. That’s what this country says. That’s what this country reminds us. And we’ve got these politicians trying to figure out what’s best for us. Why don’t we listen to country? Because Milpirri speaks to country and the country talks back to you…. Let yourself feel it and maybe it will liberate you. That’s what this country is all about. So where’s the emu? Start digging the emu Reconciliation ceremony, Jarpiwanpa. Jarpi means sleep wanpa means eat sleep. It’s a reconciliation ceremony… it’s time to put your grudges against each other to the side and to celebrate. No-one asks who is fussed about Australia Day… I’m not asking you to change it… just making you aware… We got to dig it up… communities are coming and going. It’s an opportunity to clear the land… because we keep burning it off. We’re doing something wrong. We need to start singing the songs again. We have to do Jariwarnpa again. Say sorry to each other, say sorry to the land. Read the rest of Overland 240 If you enjoyed this piece, buy the issue Or subscribe and receive four brilliant issues for a year Wanta Jampijinpa Wanta Jampijinpa’s stories draw on the language of song and ceremony to promote intercultural dialogue. He is the founder of Milpirri, a biannual festival held in Lajamanu in the Northern Territory. Milpirri grounds social action in the environment through performance and cultural transmission. Wanta’s work defines how responsibilities to place are mapped to the everyday experience, including how we can reconceive and restore our relationship to the environment and as Kurdungulu (guardians) of Country. More by Wanta Jampijinpa Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. 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