Review Blog

Aug 08 2019

Kulinmaya! Keep listening everybody by Mumu Mike Williams

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Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760524425.
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Non-fiction. Kulinmaya! tells of the life and work of Mumu Mike Williams, Anangu elder, healer, pastor, activist and artist, reminding everyone that the culture of the Anangu is and always has been strong. Fortunately when he was sent as a child to school at Ernabella his teachers insisted on his learning in his own language first, so he grew up reading and writing in Pitjantjatjara as well as English. His book Kulinmaya! is written in both languages, with Pitjantjatjara paragraphs interleaved with English translations, a wonderful treasure for Pitjantjatjara language speakers and students of the language.
As custodian of Tjukurpa Law, the cultural traditions and rules of his Country, he was determined to protect his people's knowledge and sacred sites, and was active in the APY land rights movement that led to the signing of the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act in 1981 and the return of land to the Anangu.
Williams' writings and his art are fierce with indignation that there should be any doubt about his people's ongoing connection to the land. He documented his cultural life in his paintings, and seized upon the idea of painting on Australia Post mailbags sending out messages on their journey, overlaying the warnings on the bags to say 'theft or misuse of this land and culture is a criminal offence. Penalties apply.' He also incorporated in his art the idea of a fence of traditional Aboriginal spears surrounding and protecting culture and country. The book includes a wonderful collection of coloured photographs of his artworks, including a fold-out 3-page spread of the huge 'Kamantaku Tjukurpa wiya' (The government doesn't have Tjukurpa), 2018.
Kulinmaya!, the completed draft approved just before he died, is the realisation of Williams' determination to pass on knowledge about Anangu culture, and a warning against mining and nuclear waste dumps on Anangu land. He hoped that all school children would see his paintings filled with stories. This book is an invaluable resource for schools, providing insight into Anangu beliefs and way of life and also an inspiring example in the history of Aboriginal land rights activism.
Helen Eddy

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