Talgambuun Nandaa

Philip Marrii, Ngarabul

Talgambuun Nandaa, the river that runs
across dry, dead-tree country.
haunted by the spirits of ancestors now gone,
mournful silence of the lives that once called it home;
fires that burn no more,
smokes that rise no more,
gaayngall cries heard no more:
just the silence of still nights,
illuminated by moon light,
punctuated by the birds’ cries.
Captivated I sit, listen
for the whisper of the spirits,
yearning to learn what country has to teach,
longing to feel what it means to belong,
to hear country’s song,
the lyrical autobiography of Talgambuun Nandaa,
the river that runs
across dry, dead-tree country.
Here,
where 100 years of silence
masks 100 years of violence,
100 years since dust rose
and the valley echoed
with the sound of gammangi,
a thousand feet,
dancing in unison,
voices chanting ancestors’ songs.
100 years since the weathered hands
of the cleverman
illuminated children’s faces
with ochre paints,
paints painstakingly made
from thaaraay’s natural pigments,
different designs
and the distribution of lines
telling stories of country,
sharing wisdom of ancestors.
Here, clans danced in expression
of spiritual connection,
the bond
by which they knew they belonged,
and I long to sing that song,
to feel the healing of history’s wrongs.
And as my spirit drifts & slips
into Gamilu Bidhi Wii,
I hear the voice of a thousand generations,
the manifestation
of Creation’s spirit.
“This Murri Country Ba.”
Talgambuun Nandaa, the river that runs
across dry, dead-tree country.
“This Murri Country Ba.”
Two years old,
my miigaay holds the voice of a thousand generations,
the unmistakable expression
of ancestors’ spirit,
the wisdom,
listen,
“This Murri Country Ba.”
Rekindle ancestors’ fires,
the smoke rises,
for the first time since the old times,
hands grind
earth into fine powder,
mix with water,
my daughter’s delicate fingers linger
in the colours of country.
Ochre tones, red and white,
spread in fine lines,
stripes
illuminate our faces,
and I know we belong,
feel the irresistible spiritual bonds
of Country, sing its song,
“Nha Talgambuun Nandaa,
thaaraay Ngarrabul,
Ngurrambaa nganinu.”
Our home land,
and I know,
I am not alone,
here at Talgambuun Nandaa, the river that runs
across dry, dead-tree country,
I am home.

 

Image credit: provided by Philip Marrii

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