Laurits Field Trips 2023

Author: Laurits Stapput Knudsen

Slightly overwhelmed by the Far North Queensland heat, I (Scandinavian) OzSpace PhD Laurits Stapput Knudsen, have returned from my first few trips to Aurukun on the west coast of Cape York. During these trips over the last 8 months I have completed a significant portion of my fieldwork for my PhD project on spatial language in Wik-Mungkan. Spending a few months in Aurukun has proven to be remarkably productive during these three separate trips.

Throughout my visits to Aurukun I focused on collecting the data for the comparative aspects of the OzSpace project, especially a significant number of Man and Tree games; these are an integral part of the larger project. I played the game with more than 40 people, building a strong base for comparison with the other OzSpace subprojects.

In addition to collecting information using standardised elicitation tools, I also dedicated time to conducting navigation tasks with Wik people out on Country. Huge kudos goes to all the collaborators and their dedication to capturing various landscapes around Aurukun on film, providing insights into the local flora, way-finding strategies, landscape categorisation, and generally contributing to a rich documentation of their language, cultural heritage, and biological knowledge. I am immensely grateful for the warm hospitality of the people in Aurukun and their eagerness to share their knowledge with me.

One example of this hospitality is the immense patience with my subpar fishing skills on display on the below photo.


One of Laurits Stapput Knudsen initial attempts at fishing with a handline

In addition to my time in Aurukun, I also spent some time in both Laura and Cairns. I joined a community delegation for the Laura Dance Festival, where the Wik mob reached the final round. It was an incredible experience witnessing various groups from the Cape region sharing their experiences. In Cairns, I had the privilege of collaborating with community members who graciously introduced me to Wik-Mungkan people residing in Cairns some of the time. During my trips to Laura and Cairns, I took the opportunity to investigate the usage of geocentric terms, attempting to unravel the semantics of these terms: are the terms traditionally translated as ‘north’, ‘south’, ‘east’, and ‘west’ anchored in any environmental features, or are they truly abstract cardinals?

Stay tuned for updates on that aspect of my project!