The book loses its power

Many of the actors that usually appear present on a weaving trip did not seem as powerful this time around. The book made an appearance but it too, was less powerful. This time, funeral business seemed to be performed like a bright strand of yellow pandanas, working its way through a bathi. It is uncanny that on my second weaving trip to Mäpuru this year, word came that another close relative had passed away in a neighbouring community. Grieving rituals were repeated and an exodus was made from the weaving shelter. People were heading to Gapuwiyak to be with family. M and M wanted to make sure that all of us Balanda women understood what had happened. Even though the person who’d passed was very close to M, she held us at the front of her mind. I wondered, would I wake in the night again to hear the cries of the curlew? 

I know very little about funeral time, I’ve only briefly been to one. I don’t really want to write about bäpurru, but maybe what was happening at Mäpuru when people went away to begin that time. I missed my waku’s when they left, they didn’t return to Mäpuru the following week whilst I was there working at the school. I felt their absence most on the last day of school during the assembly. M, D and I were acknowledging all of the families and how much love and encouragement they give the children. W was the only elder there who was able to hear these words. She loved it. So, maybe it was the absence of these strong women, my wakus, that I felt strongest during this week. 

On a completely different note, enter the pool table… 

My wäwa brought high drama to Mäpuru with the arrival of a mini pool table from Galiwi’ku. My märi’s house was the most popular all week with kids and adults coming over to have a go at this new source of entertainment. Sharing and turns were concepts that two wäwas in particular did not want to know anything about. It was a week of tantrums, pool cue snapping and tears!!! 

The other big news for the week was the arrival of B to assemble to solar power installation at Mäpuru. This was my first experience of having the role of gatekeeper projected onto me by a Balanda man. Although there were many people standing around when the B crew arrived, a b-line was made for me. All of a sudden, there were expectations that I had some kind of authority and would give permission for things and be a spokesperson for the community… a very uncomfortable experience and one that possibly tells a few stories about Yolŋu-Balanda relationships. I imagine this happens all the time. Do J and others from Mäpuru feel invisible when this happens? A small glimpse at ‘everyday’ life in Mäpuru when the weaving workshops take a break.

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