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The new kids on the block: Kunwinjku workshops

This year we have had two workshops in Jabiru. Our Kunwinjku translation team is made up of Berribob Watson: didjeridoo player for the Narbalek band and one of the most beautiful guitar players – lovely soundscape to our breaks. Berribob’s skin name is Kamarrang or Nabangardi.

Elizabeth Nabarlambarl calls me sister which means that we have a close friendship relationship and her children call me Mum. It also means that she has to sit between me and her husband when we work. Like me, Elizabeth’s skin name is Bangardijan or Ngalkamarrang. This family comes from Manmoyi a homeland 2 hours drive from Maningrida and 4 hours from Jabiru. Their heart language is Kunwinjku which is the lingua franca for West Arnhemland. Elizabith and Berribob both work as rangers and culture school teachers in West Arnhemland, they are studying at Nungalinya theological college in Darwin.

Our first workshop was greatly supported by Shirl and Randall Pearson from AuSIL. Randall flew everyone from Manmoyi and back and they both fed and cared for us all while our brains went to mush translating 40 Shirl Louise Elizabeth Berribob and Randall with the AuSIL plane. verses of the Gospel of Mark. As beginner translators this is painstaking work as we grapple with the material and our beginner level skills. Our second workshop was in April and we had to go it alone without Shirl and Randall. Instead Derek Guymala joined us: a 7 year old boy whom Elizabeth and Berribob are growing up. Bright, incredibly noisy and a budding translator. He sits at one end of our work table colouring in the stories while we translate them and as the day passes he slowly shifts himself up the table until he is part of the team and regularly answers my questions about a word’s specific meaning.

Thankfully the local bininj school were able to take him on a fishing trip for one day— very productive, as he came home with 7 Saratoga strung on a stick.

They arrived Saturday afternoon for a funeral in Jabiru on Sunday and followed by 4 days of translating Mark 8, and then flying home with the Saratoga, shopping, and 20kg of buffalo meat. We work with paper and pen, Elizabeth is the official scribe and I copy it all down with literal Elizabeth Nabarlambarl, Derek Guymula, Berribob Watson English translations so I can attempt to increase my budding Kunwinjku skills, it also helps me to ensure that all the elements present in the English turn up in the Kunwinjku. We start the day with prayer and then select spectacles from our collection of varying strength glasses.

We sit with an array of resources: large print Bibles – NLT and Kriol; maps of Jesus’ journeys and landscape; photos on the lap top of the topography of Israel; a basic Kunwinjku-English dictionary mainly used for spelling; other English Bibles online and an English dictionary for synonyms. I type up and print out the day’s work, then after dinner we quickly check by me reading through with my clumsy pronounciation (not sure why the others want me to be the reader, but it helps us get the spelling right and they can concentrate on the word order and getting all the prefixes and suffixes to agree).

The final step is cutting and pasting it all into the Our Word program which is managed by AuSIL in Darwin, then pressing the send button and it flies off to Dallas in Texas to be stored. Hopefully we will manage to fit in a third workshop this year in October. Thanks to the Jabiru congregation for their support for our work.

Louise Macdonald