Pama Language Centre was established in 2015 to work with the language nations of Cape York Peninsula to record, revive, revitalise and maintain their ancestral languages.
Amongst the many projects and activities that the Centre is involved in is publishing and selling books in traditional Cape York languages. These languages include Mpakwithi and Guugu Yimidhirr and the texts appear in colourful children’s picture books.
Mpakwithi is a First Nation language of Cape York Peninsula traditionally spoken around Tent Pole Creek and these are the first texts ever to be published in this language.
Mpakwithi is a Northern Paman language whose speech community has been reduced to 4 elders – three women in New Mapoon and one in Weipa. There are no fluent speakers remaining. The three women in New Mapoon – known collectively as the Kennedy sisters – have memories of their grandfather speaking this language until his death sometime in 1985. Some Mpakwithi words are used in everyday conversation.
The custodians of Mpakwithi work with a Pama Language Centre linguist in reviving their beautiful language, by developing children’s books, ebooks, songs and learning programs that will make it possible to transmit Mpakwithi to future generations.
Amra Niighi Laenae is written and illustrated by Victoria Kennedy and is an original story about the adventures of four friends on their way to the beach.
Therra Kaffry, written and illustrated by Susan Kennedy is a song about the cheeky Kaffry.
Other recently published works through the Pama Language Centre are Guugu Yimidhirr language books by Hopevale teachers Lillian Bowen and Irene Hammet.
Guugu Yimidhirr language nation was the first Aboriginal people whose language was partially recorded by James Cook and Joseph Banks in 1770. One of the recorded words was “kangurru”, which has been borrowed into most of the world’s languages.
Gudaa Bula Dyugi-dyugi Activity Sheets, by Karin Calley (Pama Language Centre) and Lillian Bowen is a beautiful book of colourful and engaging work sheets which has been developed to accompany the book Gudaa Bula Dyugi-dyugi and supports classroom teaching and home learning of Guugu Yimidhirr language.
Bidhagurr Wuurili Bunhdhiwi, Is another of Irene’s books illustrated by her daughter, award winning Hope Vale artist Donna Cobus.
All books have an English translation and links to a URL with an ebook which is read aloud by the author, further linguistic information and other resources.
The books will be accessible through One Search at the State Library of Queensland once they have been added to the catalogue.
Rose Warsow, Indigenous Languages Project Support Officer
State Library of Queensland