Enter the vortex: Mäpuru to Melbourne

Written 25th May – Darwin to Melbourne flight

Reading the prologue to A’s thesis. She writes about the layout of her community and what is a common feature of the community… a mob of dogs being cheeky around food. This reminds me of the nemesis we (napurru) formed in the last few days at Mäpuru, Pissing Dog. Our new acquaintance managed to relieve himself on a number of objects during our short stay: my tent and pack, camera equipment, S’ bag and the leaves we were to use in steaming the much loved Ganguri. A slap on the rump, strategically thrown thong or a litany of curses barely deterred Pissing Dog, who barely flinched. All of these episodes were met with laughter as we (napurru Yolŋu miyalk ga Balanda miyalk) shared moments of humor, humility and understanding. But, I juxtapose these moments with one of complete and utter misunderstanding… my first poignant lesson in cross-cultural misunderstanding. 

Lesson 1: think carefully before you speak, it is hard to retract comments. 
Lesson 2: listen more that you speak (at a ratio of at least 3:1)
Lesson 3: be forgiving, especially to one’s self
Lesson 4: relinquish any notion that you are ‘in control’ of a situation – let go 

My three very full days in Mäpuru made me feel as though I was in an emotional vehicle with my foot jammed on the accelerator… what a ride. Did I have high expectations of myself and how I would/could communicate and connect with my Yolŋu gurrutu? Why yes! Bless S and E for their listening and compassion. What I have become acutely aware of is that I am still seeking the approval of others on quite a deep level, especially those in positions of perceived authority. Last night as I sat quietly, so many things came up that wanted to be let go of. Judgments that are deeply rooted, ones that I have nursed since my childhood. It’s time to say, ‘so long!’ 

On a different train of thought, something that I feel compelled to do is describe the nature and dynamics of my relationships with the women in Mäpuru. Could I do this through metaphor? I think it may take some processing to work through my feeling around the misunderstanding that occurred. It is interesting that whilst it might appear that you share a common language with someone, there may not be a connection that allows each person to feel heard. Sitting and listening to my two mari’mus this morning felt so nurturing and heartfelt. It doesn’t matter what language comes out of my mouth, I always feel heard by those women. Is it because we don’t share great English and Djumbarrpuyŋu that we invest more in a language of 

feeling? And what of my märi mala? Relationships that are just starting to germinate. ŊAarra märi tells such distinct stories through her gunga djäma. Whenever I think of her a Yolŋu learning metaphor comes to heart and mind. Galtha-ga: nangumirri ‘possessing a different and distinctive galtha’ (Christie and Marika-Mununggiritj, 1995). I wonder what meaning her weaving holds for her? 

On being a ‘researcher’… I have been feeling very inadequate in terms of what I feel I can offer the people who I collaborate with. I think I need to bring it right back to respect, listening, valuing people’s expression of their culture, kindness, love, honesty, integrity… 

Burning questions for now (divergent and very scattered)… 

How does actor-network theory relate to the creation of metaphors?
How far back to I tell my story?
How important is it for Balanda to feel as though they have a clearly defined ‘role’ in an Indigenous community?
How am I projecting my worldview onto the Yolngu world? How can I actually ‘see’ what is Yolngu if I am saturating my view with my own lens?

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