Rest in Peace Amala.


Bree Blakeman Preexam Thesis Sep9 2013_V2


Rest in Peace amala, my old Mummy, who always told me that I didn’t treat my husband right, whose company I adored. (If one could explain the art of witty, acerbic conversation in Yolŋu-matha, and the skilful play on words, switching across and back between languages.) Countless hours together in company under the mango tree, weaving, talking, smoking and drinking tea (and amala would often break into song, so quietly, half facing away). She taught my dhuway what it meant to be a son-in-law and he duly avoided her as his mokul, sending gifts and care through his galay, my brothers and sisters. She was my amala and I was her waku.

It was amala’s Mother’s country that I came to call my own. It was her father’s country that we footwalked to, to scour the rocks for oysters. To stop in the dry and rest. I was never the most adept hunter, or gatherer, for that matter, and so often stayed behind to look after amala (her brain already slightly gapu-mirri). Chattering away even when I dozed off. Sometimes amala mistook the shower for a toilet and sometimes I’d wake up just in time to catch her trying to light a fire inside to keep the sandflies from biting me as I slept. One could only half sleep, but I so loved this time that we spent together.

Amala was a Gälpu woman, daughter of GuliGuli and Gunanu (a Warramiri woman), sixth wife of Gaṯiri, mother of Banambuŋa, Yethun, and Djirarrwuy. She was also mother to the children of her sister Gulanu (same mother same father), her co-wife, Gatiri’s second wife: Dhonbu, Wäṉba, Galitju and Buwana, Wamuwandi, Maṯi-Maṯi, Wuthaŋi and Dhatmula. She was mother, too, to the children of her sister Dhupi (same mother same father), also her co-wife, Gaṯiri’s fourth wife: Waluŋba and Barmula, Mirara, Yäku-miriw (marrkap’), Batumbil and Ŋalala. Gaṯiri’s first, third and fifth, seventh and eighth wives were also their close kin. Close kin and co-wives, they had thirty two children among and between them, and each and all helped to raise the other, to grow them up. All the sisters, all mothers to their waku. Amala was the last surviving wife of (the late) Gaṯiri.

Among the many things that I learned from amala was the fact that there is no legitimate power without responsibility and nurturance in equal measure, and conversely, when there is no power there is an absolute responsibility (on the part of others), to carry and hold, to care for and look after. Ama’ was old and weak in her later years, and sometimes confused, but she was always in the breast of kin and ever enmeshed within the networks of relatedness that she herself, in part, had woven.

Amala was born and died on country. She passed away peacefully on her Mother’s country on Thursday afternoon, surrounded by kin who were  singing her home as she left.


Back to the collective womb, the water of the eye.


Goodnight amala. I love you, and I will be there to help carry you home.





1 Comment

Filed under General personal writings, Incidental

One response to “Rest in Peace Amala.

  1. ganyu

    Thank you for sharing this personal tribute to your amala .. or as we say here in Ramingining, your ŋama. It says so much more about the way gurruṯu works than the normal descriptions that Balanda are given to read, or told by other Balanda.

    We have been talking a lot about gurruṯu here of late as I have had the privilege of working closely with Yolŋu colleagues on what we have been calling ‘wäŋa gurruṯu maps’, although we have been talking with Michael Christie (buŋgawa for this governance project) about this concept of ‘mapping’. It’s a dicey term, as it implies that we are tracing the contours of something a priori, something found, as opposed to something dynamic, produced daily in the ongoing working of Yolŋu society. (Although that word society is tricky too!)

    Am so glad your amala got to go peacefully, in the presence of her gurruṯu. Wow, what a blessing! Thanks again for sharing and still look forward to catching up one day.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s