Posted on 20 April, 2020

Baḏurru: The story of the Milky Way

Baḏurru: The story of the Milky Way

Fifteen years ago an elderly Yolŋu lady recorded a traditional children’s story in the Djambarrpuyŋu Luŋgurrpuy language about the Milky Way, ceremonies and trade.

Now that story has finally been published, with illustrations by students from Shepherdson College in Galiwin’ku, northeast Arnhem Land.

Baḏurru, which means the Milky Way, as well as the ceremony and the pole used in the ceremony, is about a cat and a crow travelling through the Milky Way, and how clans traded with each other. ARDS Aboriginal Corporation staff member Joy Bulkanhawuy realised that it would be fitting for children to illustrate the story.

“Originally, when we brought the Baurru story out to the children at Shepherdson College, it was just words without pictures”, Bulkanhawuy said.

“We invited the children to illustrate the story and they got straight to work on the drawings, their own pictures and imaginations! We were all so thrilled to see that.”

The storyteller’s daughter, Gundumawuy, also paid special tribute to these pint-sized illustrators:

“I also want to thank the children who gave this story its colour,” Gundumawuy said.

“Those children heard the story, went away and thought about it, then expressed their own response. It’s their book too.”

Sadly the elderly storyteller passed away shortly after Baḏurru was printed so the book is particularly meaningful for Gundumawuy.

“I really want to thank all of the ARDS workers and management – Yolŋu and Balanda. You have listened carefully to my mother’s story and you have understood why it is important,” Gundumawuy said.

“I encourage everyone to receive this story in the same open spirit that it was told, written and drawn,” she said.

Baḏurru is part of ARDS’s Ancient Languages, New Skills project, which was funded by the Australian Government’s Indigenous Languages and the Arts (ILA) program.

Image: Shepherdson College students Martha Hewett, Joshua Garrawurra and Kiki Gawla display their artwork for Baḏurru.

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