Welcome to my country by Laklak Burarrwanga and family
Allen and Unwin, 2013. ISBN 9781743313961.
(Age: 14+) Recommended. This is a beautiful book. Laklak and her sisters invite you in to learn about Yolngu country and culture in northeast Arnhem Land - country that many people may know only as the land of Yothu Yindi, the famous Aboriginal band with their songs Treaty and Djapana Sunset Dreaming. Laklak explains that in Yolngu culture, yothu yindi means mother-child, a relationship that is core to their beliefs and part of the land as well, like the web of Dhuwa and Yirritja moieties that weave and hold everyone and everything together. With each chapter we learn a little more - about water, the six seasons, collecting and sharing food, the counting system, astronomy and space, justice and peace, relationships and warnings.
Each chapter starts with a conversation from Laklak to the reader, describing the season, and inviting you to join in whatever activity is happening at the time. Each chapter also has a story that illustrates and adds meaning to the lesson learnt. We learn the history as well - of the early relationship with the Macassan traders from Indonesia, the struggle for recognition of land rights, and the creation of the Bark Petition now hanging in Parliament House, Canberra.
The book is written simply in a conversational style, the font is large and there are many attractive coloured photographs, but this is not a simple book. Although the early chapters might be shared with a younger audience, the lessons become increasingly complex, and a later chapter deals with the serious issue of forbidden sexual relationships.
There are layers upon layers of knowledge, like peeling the layers of a paperbark tree. As Laklak says, 'For Yolngu, knowledge is told in context, at the right time and to the appropriate audience. If you are reading this, it is the right time for you to learn'.
For me, I feel I could read it over again, and begin to understand a bit more with each reading. This invitation to country provides an insight into a wonderfully rich and complex culture that stands proud and strong, offering to share knowledge and go forward in a two-ways learning exchange.