2020 BK short course

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23 replies
  1. Cathy Bow
    Cathy Bow says:

    Since nobody else is posting, I’ll break the ice.
    I find the social organisation of Bininj absolutely fascinating, and feel like I’ll never fully get the hang of it.
    I noticed a change in the relationship when Seraine and Jill adopted me as Ngalkangila, it became much more personal rather than simply professional.
    Kinship seems to be a great topic of conversation for Bininj, so it’s a good way to build connections with people, working out who they are and how you relate to them and how they relate to others

  2. Simon-C
    Simon-C says:

    The system of skin names and associated relationships really fascinates me. It’s such an elegant and inclusive way to organise your community, especially since each of the skin names comes with totems that then extend this inclusion to plants, animals and inanimate objects. I’ve never encountered anything like it in many years of travels! When Zenobia, Aara and I visited the communities in Mamadawerre, Manmoyi and Kabulwarnamyo, this was the first thing people explained to us. Being given a skin name by my brother Tyson came as a big surprise, but immediately everything changed – suddenly I had kakkaks and rdardas and lots of things to remember, including how to shake hands with my poison cousin! Learning the skin chart has definitely translated all this into a form that is more codified, yet I still feel there’s so much more to it than any skin chart can ever convey!

  3. Jamie-M
    Jamie-M says:

    Yes i think the social organisation and kinship are fascinating, lifelong learning. I love the way everyone has a place and connection, and reciprocal obligations and responsibilities.
    My observation from working with Yolŋu in East Arnhem Land and from my more limited experience with Bininj, is that without being adopted or given a skin name, you are an outsider who can’t really be placed within the social structure (in the balanda world i essentially think of this as being without a face or name); but once this happens you can be placed, you fit, you take on these reciprocal obligations and responsilities and Bininj recognise how to interact with you.

  4. Chris-C
    Chris-C says:

    I’m really enjoying learning the skin names and moieties (I think I have them off by heart now). Here are my introductory sentences for practice.

    Ngaye ngangeyyo Chris. Ngaye kunkurlah ngarduk Nakamarang. Ngaye ngamdolkkang Bribsane beh. Ngaye ngahni kore Thirroul (NSW).
    Ngadjare ngaborlbme Kunwinjku

  5. Zenobia-J
    Zenobia-J says:

    This course is really helping me getting my head around the social organisation of Bininj. I find it absolutely fascinating and really appreciate now why it is so fundamentally important to understand the system when working with communities. I am working very hard to master this, so that I can address people correctly next time I visit, or even if I see them on zoom! My experience too is that Bininj love talking about kinship and I now understand why. It made my head spin when they were explaining all the relationships to me and left me in complete awe that they never seem to get confused. Now that I understand the structure around it, I am adamant to also not be confused! I wish I was up in Arnhem Land to practice my new gained knowledge with Bininj.

  6. Melody-K
    Melody-K says:

    I have really enjoyed learning about kunkurlah which is similar to what I learned about malk through my adopted sister in Galiwin’ku, Elcho Island. Although learning about Bininj skin names and moiety is made easier by being familiar with the Yolngu system, I have to be careful not to assume where the similarities and connections are because it is also so distinct. A few months ago, I was learning a bit of Maung in Warruwi and a friend explained what my skin name Galikali translates to in the Bininj system, it surprised me when she said Ngal-bulanj!

    This means my kids, who I call Gudjuk and Gutjan are called Ngal-wamud and Na-wamud by Bininj. I had jumped to the conclusion that the skin names that sounded similar (Ngal-kangila, ngal-kodjok) would be the ‘right’ ones for me. I love the way that knowing the skin names of those around me, and having a place within the social system, helps to break down initial barriers to conversation, and gives me a context to begin learning from Bininj. I look forward to my trips to West Arnhem and will seek out opportunities to practice what I’m learning.

    • Cathy Bow
      Cathy Bow says:

      Yes, I found the similarities between names in different groups confusing – assuming they would just translate across, but being told they didn’t and having to adjust my thinking.

  7. Fay-J
    Fay-J says:

    My biggest surprise was that the similar sounding skin names from Kune and Kunwingku eg ‘Kodjok’ do not map to each other. They are from the opposite patrimoiety.

  8. Leigh-H
    Leigh-H says:

    I second the comments about how elegant and organised Bininj kinship is – this course has helped me really start to understand the concept. I often come across this in the hospital – especially when it comes to responsibilities and obligations around consent and decision-making (also how current NT laws around consent actually take none if this into consideration!)
    I have also found that a good way to build rapport with Bininj is to talk about kinship and relationships.
    I’ve just started using Quizlet digital flashcards. 🙂

  9. Steve-B
    Steve-B says:

    Hi. I’ve also found learning about the skin system really interesting. It seems like such a different way of relating to one and another – very intriguing. I think I will try to memorise the skins names as it sounds like useful information to have for building relationships with Bininj. I noticed that by following correct marriage a person would never marry someone with the same patrimoiety or matrimoiety. I take it this is an important feature of Bininj culture?

  10. Louise-M
    Louise-M says:

    After working and living with Bininj for a number of years, it is good to be able to take the time to understand some language and deeper aspects of culture. The timing is right ☺️

  11. Gregory-G
    Gregory-G says:

    Well. the plot thickens and thins again. My Kokok insisted I am Nangarridj like him because our dad is bro to a man married to a Ngalwamud whose son is saying we are his bro and my kokok reckons he worked out my bio Mother was therefore Ngalwamud also. i said i’m not sure because my Aboriginal mother was another woman, looked up the census data from 1968 for Croker Island and read Nalwamut as ‘tribe’ for my Bininj mother. i am assuming in 1968 census takers spelled Ngalwamud as Nalwamut and listed it as ‘tribe’. More to the point and cleverly and wisely, the people chose the right relation woman for my biological mother’s helper to care for me as a baby, as a sister to her and a mother to me. both my bio mo and minjilang mother are Ngalwamud. So it all ties together. i think..

  12. Georgina-H
    Georgina-H says:

    This unit has been very enlightening, It has taken longer than anticipated to understand and get my head fully around it. But I feel more confident to acknowledge colleagues/ families in their skin groups. In saying this, I defiantly need to practice memorising skin group names!

  13. Anabell
    Anabell says:

    Great feeling to be getting to the point where I can form a full sentence in Kunwinjku and not just throwing around with words I picked up over the time.

    • Denise-H
      Denise-H says:

      Im finally catching up, it seems to take me a while to fully understand a weeks lesson and before I know it, the next week is here. So to catch up from last week
      ngaye ngangeyyo Denise
      Ngaye kunkurlah ngarduk Ngal-wamud (Ive chosen this)
      Ngaye ngamdolkkang Margaret River beh
      ngaye ngahni kore Jabire
      Ngadjare (im confused why I just dont say ngaye here) ngaborlbme Kunwinjku

      Im loving my learnings, and really need to find one local bininj to practice with regularly, rather than someone here and someone there.

      • Cathy Bow
        Cathy Bow says:

        Yo Ngalwamud – kamak!
        Your sentences are good – contemporary spelling rules don’t require hyphens between prefixes and roots, so you can use Ngalwamud without the prefix.

        Great question about why you don’t use Ngaye in the last sentence – in fact you don’t need it in any of those sentences. It’s an independent pronoun, only really needed to specify or highlight the subject, like ‘me, I’m Ngalwamud’. The pronominal prefix on the verb (nga- on ngangeyyo, ngamdolkkang, ngahni) is all that’s needed to identify the subject.

        I strongly encourage you to find a local daluk who’s willing to sit with you and practise, but don’t give up trying with people here and there!

  14. Tony-G
    Tony-G says:

    There was a lot in this week’s learning.
    Ngaye ngangeyyo Tony (Doni?)
    Kunkurlah ngarduk Nangarridj.
    Ngamdolkkang Tawonga beh (Dawongga?)
    Ngahni kore Darwin
    Ngadjere ngaborlbme Kunwinjku

    I have appreciated the way Matri-moeity kuknurlah cycles of Ngarradkju and Marrdku have been presented.
    This has helped me to memorise them – and therefore ‘see the Duwa and Yirridjdja classifications as well.
    Some additional discussions have suggested that Duwa and Yirridjdja (referred to as Patri-moieties) actually derive not from the father, but from the mother – and are the opposite moiety of the mother. This distinction only occurs to my Balanda mind in the case of a ‘wrong-way marriage’ resulting in a child/children. However, I suspect that there is even deeper wisdom in the classifications and sub-sections than I am aware of.

    Does anyone know if a study has been done on comparisons between Moeity, kunkurlah (or malk) and the transmission/inheritance of blood types (A, B, AB O etc) from one generation to the other (intergenerational genetic and Rh inheritance)? I suspect this would be fascinating.

    I’m finding too many ‘rabbit burrows’ with this learning and spending a lot of time, but falling waaaay behind.
    Oh well, the learning is good.

    Thank you Cathy (and the team) for the way this course is presented.
    I am finding it very helpful and easy to engage with.

    Ma bonj.

  15. Geoff-B
    Geoff-B says:

    When I started living on Djinkarr outstation near Maningrida, I thought I might have been given the name ‘Worro’. My adoptive sister, Gotjan (Ngal-wamud) always seemed to be calling me that. I later learned that in Gurr-goni, ‘worro’ means ‘poor thing’ – I think she felt very sorry for me living alone so far from home, haha!
    I was given my Gurr-goni skin of Godjok (Na-wamud) by one of the Djelk/Bawinanga Rangers who I worked with. I tried to make sure that I understood what this meant in terms of my relationships with the other rangers and that I behaved appropriately and respectfully, including using people’s skin names. The rangers appreciated those efforts, particularly in terms of showing respect. For example, if I was handing something to (or taking something from) my ‘brother-in-law’ I would touch my left hand fingers to my right forearm – I did this mostly when I was handing over my lighter – I don’t smoke, but having a lighter proved a great way to ensure I got to interact with people a lot. I’m sure I stuffed things up a lot, but the rangers were pretty forgiving and took it easy on me. The rangers also taught me a bit about the importance of patrimoieties in caring for country, in terms of who ‘owns’ and who ‘manages’ certain areas.
    I wish I had done a course like this way back then – it is so great how we are learning as much about culture and family as we are about language. I’m a very slack student, but I really do enjoy learning all of this (slowly!!!).
    Mah bonj.

  16. Louise-W
    Louise-W says:

    Kamak ngaye gnahborlme kunwinjku yeledj. Nuk kunrnhurlah kumud? Kabo?
    Hi…I am learning language slowly! Not sure what my skin totem is? Green Ant?

    I too have a deeper insight into the complex family I have in Kakadu and the far reaching family beyond. I have tried poorly to converse with Bininj and they help me to keep trying. Yeledj yiwokdin (speak slowly!)

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