Recording Wik-Alken, Wik-Ngatharr and Wik-Ngathan

The Painted Stories: Language and Art Workshop was held by the PLC, with support from the Home and Community Care centre and Wik Arts Centre in Aurukun from 22–29 April.

The Workshop was held in response to ancestral language speakers’ requests for an opportunity to create a reflective and quiet space that would allow them to record stories in local ancestral languages, Wik-Alken and Wik-Ngathan, so that these could be passed on to younger generations through oral and written recordings.

The Workshop enabled Elders to work with younger generations in painting aspects of their country sites, autobiographical narratives and cultural history. These paintings and stories will form the basis of language books that will include images of the artworks, the text, and learning guides for each painting, which highlights specific vocabulary.

The resulting materials will be designed to be multi-functional, being able to be read by children to each other, used as learning materials for young children, and also kept as a record of the history of the individual families and ancestral-language-speaking Elders.

They will also be able to be used in the compilation of a topical picture dictionary, and be adapted to digital media formats, such as read-aloud e-books. During the Workshop, young people also received training in the documentation of languages, including assisting with photography, operating audio-visual recording equipment and using linguistic analysis software to transcribe materials and assist with design and layout.

The Workshop has already led to a number of significant outcomes for participants, and the broader community, including the following:

  • Creation of original paintings and stories that will form the basis of future storybooks and learning resources in Wik-Alken and Wik-Ngathan, thereby promoting the accessibility of ancestral language materials
  • Creation of a domain for the inter-generational transmission of language and culture materials
  • Recordings and documentation of language in use as people discussed their work and collaborated on narratives
  • Participants developed and refined their skills in painting and documenting ancestral languages
  • Promotion of the artistic and cultural practices and linguistic knowledge of the diverse community of Aurukun.

The Workshop has also led to further discussions around opportunities for training young people in language documentation and creating employment opportunities in this area.

“It’s been great with plenty of people there from 7.30am–4.30pm and lots of relatives popping in to look at their work and talk about the project.”— Louise Ashmore, Linguist, Workshop Facilitator


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