News from the field: Balgo (Western Australia)

Tom Ennever, PhD candidate

I recently wrapped a really busy and productive three months in Balgo, WA. Two big highlights of this trip were the successful Canning Stock Route and Wilkinkarra ‘On Country’ trips organised by Warlaryirti Artists in June and August (read more here). These trips were a fantastic opportunity for Balgo families to return to their country, paint and pass on stories to the next generation.

Ennever_Blogpost_2_CSR Balgo artists painting on country during the Canning Stock Route trip. Photo credit: Warlayirti Artists

Ennever_Blogpost_2_CSRreturn Traversing ngurarra “middle country” on the way back from a successful trip to Wilkinkarra

Back in Balgo I stayed busy working with many savvy language speakers, transcribing and translating old stories as well as recording new ones. We had lots of Balgo mob join in on various ‘space games’ which we are using to learn more about how spatial concepts are encoded in the Kukatja language and how the language is changing (and staying strong!) across generations.

Ennever_Blogpost_2_Haley_Bianca Hayley (L) and Bianca Mudgedell (R) playing the “Man and Tree” game)

These more specialised tasks are being used in conjunction with narratives and re-tellings of trips on country to build up a complex picture of how Kukatja mob talk about land, landscape and the spatial relationships between places, things and people.

Ennever_Blogpost_2_Helicopter.png Helicopter Tjungurrayi describes Natawalu—where he was picked up by his namesake as a boy—while reviewing GoPro footage

While in Balgo, it was a great to have, OzSpace team member Joe Blythe drop in on his way up (and down) the Tanami and meet up with some of the Mudgedell family who have connections to Jaru country and were excited to speak some Jaru with a visitor. Read about what we got up to here.

The end of my Balgo trip aligned with a wonderful celebration in Balgo for Warlayirti Artists 35th Birthday, covered here. While I sadly missed out on the live music night, it was really special to see the results of all the creative energy that has gone into the art centre over the last few years and, in particular, the creative outputs from time spent on country.

Towards the end of my trip I also spoke to Vanessa Mills from ABC Radio Kimberley about my current PhD project as well as the lexicographic work done by Marie Mudgedell, Patrick Smith and myself. The forthcoming Ngardi dictionary represents a culmination of forty years work of Ngardi speakers and various linguists. Check that out here.

Since returning from the field, I have been busy transcribing various recordings both for the Art Centre and my own PhD project. The OzSpace PhD team are also planning a writing retreat towards the end of the year to discuss how the project is going and to make a number of key decisions for the comparative component of our spatial research. Stay tuned to hear the outcomes from that later in the year.