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Noongar Mambara Bakitj by Kim Scott
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Noongar Mambara Bakitj

by Kim Scott, Lomas Roberts, Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project

Other authors: Anthony Roberts (Illustrator), Geoffrey Woods (Illustrator)

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Recently published by UWA (University of Western Australia), this trilingual picture-book - the text is given in Noongar, in contemporary Noongar English, and in standard English - presents a traditional tale first related by Noongar elders Bob Roberts and Freddie Winmar to American linguist Gerhardt Laves at Albany, Western Australia, in 1931. Languishing for years in Laves' papers, it was returned to the Noongar people by his family in the 1980s, and has recently been workshopped by the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project, a community group including participants related to both Roberts and Winmar. The project was spearheaded by Noongar novelist Kim Scott, who also provided the informative afterword about the group's methodology.

As an American with little first-hand knowledge of Australia's indigenous population - I don't think I'd ever heard of the Noongar people before picking this book up - but a great interest in traditional stories of all kinds, as well as the challenges facing minority and endangered languages, I found Noongar Mambara Bakitj fascinating. I stumbled across it quite by chance, and finding the cover quite striking, visually speaking, and the title unfamiliar, linguistically speaking, I was immediately intrigued and snapped it up. I'd love to learn more about this people's traditional lore, particularly the significance of the mambara, or spirit creatures - why were some placated by the noongar's (person's) gift of kangaroo meat, and others not? - as well as of the noongar's flight, toward the end of the story. I thought the Noongar English translation of the original Noongar (as opposed to the standard English) was really quite interesting - it felt very abbreviated to me, almost like a summary! - and I also enjoyed the artwork, done by Geoffrey Woods and Anthony Roberts.

I can imagine that this book and its companion, Mamang, would make a valuable resource for those seeking to teach young people Noongar. For the rest of us, it is a fascinating glimpse into a culture and language that is probably unfamiliar. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kim Scottprimary authorall editionscalculated
Roberts, Lomasmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Projectmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Roberts, AnthonyIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Woods, GeoffreyIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Book description
A young man follows a kangaroo track deep into the old people’s country. Along the way he meets some spirit creatures (‘mambara’) who allow him to go on. But after he has hunted down the kangaroo, one mambara is angry and demands a fight (‘bakitj’). All day they fight, until the Noongar discovers he is a magic person and defeats the mambara.
This book is inspired by a story Bob Roberts told the linguist Gerhardt Laves at Albany, Western Australia, around 1931. It has been workshopped in a series of community meetings, which included some contemporary family of both those men.
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Noongar Mambara Bakitj was created as part of an Indigenous language recovery project led by Kim Scott and the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project.

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