Archives and ethnography: missing kin, thinking through poems

Fieldwork photo: Balaya galki yirralka-ngura. Different season though.

This is a poem I wrote when I was researching in the archives in Darwin after fieldwork.

The archives (and the impossibly resourceful archivists) were just amazing. It was a strange and almost melancholy experience. Like a ethnographic bower-bird I collected stories and photos of and about the history of my adoptive kin (from the perspective of the local Methodist Missionaries and then local Government reps). I was able to hold in my hand, for example, documents from the 1950s, about particular kin o’mine hand-written by particular local missionaries at the time. T’was kind of uncanny in many ways.

I will translate this when I have time.

‘Today the clouds are like mountains




The wet season rises

to the west yurru

I see it beηuru



Bala mulkurr ηarra roηi-yirri

dhiyaki-yi maykaran-dhu,

bala ηunhabala nhina ηilimurru yukurra 

galkun yukurra 

Wititj-ku bambay-thu.


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Filed under Ethnography, General personal writings, Poetry turnstile, Thesis/Yolngu related writing

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