Indigenous readers are advised this post contains the name and image of a deceased person.
I had an epiphany today, when driving home from a coffee outing; I was listening to Bush Telegraph on Radio National (ABC), and caught part of an interview with Rrawun Maymuru, singer/songwriter of the Indigenous band East Journey, and grandson of the late, great, much lamented Mandawuy Yunupingu.
I won’t attempt to sum up the wonderful life of this man, a leader of his people and leader of the band Yothu Yindi, who achieved world fame. It would be presumptuous of me to attempt it. But I mourn his passing.
East Journey are also from Arnhem Land. In his interview, Rrawun Maymuru spoke movingly and poetically of many themes that struck a deep chord in me: home, place, language and culture, and the sacredness of these fundamentals of human life.
East Journey comes from the Creation story of the first journey of the two sisters who created the land and the people, the 13 different clans of the homeland in North East Arnhem Land. Guwak (the name of the CD, and the title song) is a messenger bird ( who is also Maymuru himself ) who went from west to east, so the music is sending a message to his people and to the world. “For me, language is my voice from my land, my people …. my power … our language has been here for thousands and thousands of years… The ancestor gave us this language so we can understand each other… and the song talks about Two Sisters creating the land, the people, the nature, giving songs and boundaries for two moieties ….”
I don’t have the deep thousands-of-years heritage that Maymuru and his people have, and yet I deeply resonate with their journey, and the sacredness that they celebrate, of their home, their place, their language, their culture. And although my own home, the place of my childhood, is lost and I can’t return, and my family’s traces are all but erased from there, I still feel deep ties to it, and honour the nurturing and lessons I learned there. And Maymuru’s words and the music of East Journey take me back to my spirit home, as well as connecting me with their homeland, in spirit.
Maymuru, as a Yolngu person, wants to share his 40,000 year-old culture with white Australia and the world through their music. Long may they live, create music, and spread the message of unity in difference.