From the Flesh of Our Land, Margaret Kemarre Turner OAM PDF Print E-mail

Elder Margaret Kemarre Turner OAM
Elder Margaret Kemarre Turner OAM
‘Iwenhe Tyerrtye – what it means to be an Aboriginal person’ by Eastern Arrernte artist and Elder Margaret Kemarre Turner OAM, was published by IAD Press, the only Indigenous publishing house in the Northern Territory, in September of 2010. In this new title Mrs Turner describes in detail the different elements of her culture and how they are inter-related. The following extract shares some of her deep understanding of what it means to be an Arrernte Aboriginal person.

The Land needs words. Otherwise, if we didn’t have language to speak with, we’d only have the thoughts that are inside our head. We’d have thoughts, but what good are they without the words to bring them out, so that we can tell each other what those thoughts are, sing our songs, and tell our Stories? So the Land needs words.

Words makes things happen. Words makes us alive, the language keeps us alive. If we didn’t have any language, we couldn’t have said anything; we couldn’t have done anything; we couldn’t have sent anything out, you know?

We couldn’t have had a meaning for it, the meaning that’s in things. That’s why our language is really strong and really important to myself and to all the people who speak it.

It’s not only words that’s sacred but also it comes from our own Land, and comes from our Ancestors. It’s a gift from that Land for the people who join into that Land – fathers, and brothers, and sisters, and brothers-in-law, and also our children. We come from the Land, and the language comes from the Land. And everything that grows from the Land, it really relates to our language as well. Like the hills, creeks, trees, and water. Because they got all the names from the Land. Everything’s got a name for it, even ant. Every different ant, every different bird’s got a name. Every bird talks different languages, and that comes from the trees from our Land. All the time we relate to the birds’ words and the birds’ message as well as our own language. Akarre is a sacred tongue because it comes from the Land and it’s part of us, and because we use it to do things, to say things – give messages, bring out things, you know.

Ane akaltye anthurre angkentye ikwerenheke. Ane angkentye itethe atnerte mpwepe-arenye apeke re. And that person knows his language, and he knows that his language is born out of the living flesh of that Land.

No Aboriginal people tells anybody wrongly that his or her language is this or that, arelhe urrperlele ileme angkentye ikwerenhe arratye anthurre. Because he never tells lies, because that person is this language speaker. Because arrenge ikwerenhe, his father’s father, is a language speaker like this, and aperle ikwerenhe, his father’s mother, she’s a language speaker same as this.

My own language is Akarre, which I have from my father’s father’s Land. I also speak Alyawarr which is my mother’s father’s language, and also Central Arrernte, Anmatyerr, and English. But my knowledge comes through Akarre, and that is the way ayengearle akaltyele-antheke, ane akaltye-irrintyeke, ane arintyeke, ane itelarintyeke, nthakenhe-nthakenhe-arle anintyeke. That’s how I got taught these things, how I’ve learned throughout my life, how I’ve always seen the world, how I understand it, and how and what in all those ways life has always been. All through my own sacred language.

People used to keep language very strong. Never they used to copy any other languages, never really learned any other languages much, angkentye arrpenheke akaltye-irretyarte aneke. Merne apmere anyente ikwerenge ane unthelte-anemele, ane anpernirrentye anyente ikwerenhe aneke. Ampe-arlke apmerele-arle inteke anyente akwete, anewe-akerrenheke anyente ikwerenge. They just lived in their own country, speaking the same language. Together they gathered food from that place, held to one kinship line, and their children were born there, always on that one country. They themselves had been born there, lived, grew up, and got married in that same area. They all spoke the same language because of those old people who belong to that country. And the reason they lived like that was because they could see the Ownership of that Land, and saw that they’re from that country itself. That’s how people used to live in them countries. And not only to have a say in that country, but to make it as their own, make it part of them, and what it is to them, and to their kids, and to the kids to come. So they can grow up in a good environment of understanding. How they can live.

That’s why they’ve always wanted to keep them languages straight and strong.

Language is something we see, and we know who those people are, and if we hear someone talking the same language as myself, then I know, you know, even a kid might know, ‘he’s talking the language that my parents and my grandparents can talk. He must be our relation too’, and that’s how people identify themselves.

It’s really with our language. You can recognise if a person uses different words, and speaks in a different manner that’s not exactly in the Akarre manner; well, you know they speak another language, come from another apmereyanhe. You can also tell who people are just by looking at them. And where they’re from. They might really look alike, but in the way that we see it, it’s different – different looks, different way of walking or sitting, or action, that’s how we see it. Tyerrtye ampere arrpenhe-arenye alhengke-arerle. You can tell by their face, even when no words are coming out, even by the way they’re dressed, how they are. You can tell them straight out, you can notice them straightaway, ‘oh this person’s that person, and that person’s that sort of language-person’.

You gotta akaltyele-anthele ampe ngkwinhe-areye, you gotta teach your kids what language is, and what language belongs to that country, and what language is tied to the Land, and what is you. ‘Being you’ is to know your own language from that Land and for the Land, know who is connected to your Land, and know the people who speaks the same language who is really joined from your Land. Language ngkwinhe angkentye unte-arle angkeme ane angkentye arrpenhe-areye kantreye itweke-itwe-arle aneme mape. Angwenheante-areye apeke angkentye anyente-arle angkeme. You speak you own language and the language of your closest next-door neighbours, apmereyanhe-arenye mape, anpernirrentye mape. They’re the ones speaks the same language as yourself. And it’s really good you know, your language is from your very own country – it’s a real deep country-language. Unte-arle arrenge akekenge, or unte-arle atyakekenge, unte-arle Altyerre akekenge, it’s rooted in your relationships from Creation, in your kinship that cycles from then and there onwards and onwards. Language is just like a root from the tree, ’cause that language is spoken not only unte, it’s spoken by ngkwenge artweyele, ngkwenge artweye atherrele, ikwere artweye atherrele, and ikwereke artweyeke artweye atherrele angkentyeke. Not only you speak that language, but generation upon generation upon generation of your families have also spoken it. And so language is really, really important. Your own language. And that language really recognises you, gives you identity, and who you are and what is you, and how you’re connected to that Land, and how you hold the Land, alakenhakweye. Angkentye ngkwinhe. Yanhe-anteareyele rarle angkentye-arle antirrkweme, those are the things that the language connects and holds. What is to be yourself.

Apmere kantreyenge-ntyele angkentye arrateke angkentye anwekakerrenhe, angkentye Ikngerrekwiperre.
Language comes straight out of the country. The Akarre language belongs to me and belongs to my family. It comes up from the Land to our Ancestor, then on to our great-grandfathers, arrengenge akngeye-werne kele anwerne aneme. And from those old people to me and my other families then. The only way that you can claim another language is by your four grandparents. Ipmenhe ngkwinhe might speak that other language, atyemeye ngkwinhe might speak that other language, aperle ngkwinhe might speak another language, but your very own language comes from your own Land, your father’s father’s Land, like akngeye ngkwinhe-kenhe, arrenge ngkwinhe-kenhe, apmere kantreyenge-ntyele. Alakenhe.

Layake apmere tantyipe nhenhele anemele.
Anwerne awerle-aneme angkentye arunthe anthurre angkerrirrerlenge. Because we live with so many other groups now, today we have a better chance of learning other people’s languages, which is good for having an understanding of the different Aboriginal people living in a township like Alice Springs. We know now that there are many, many Aboriginal languages. And that’s why you gotta learn your own language first, before you learn any other languages – to know it, to understand it, and also to relate to it.

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