Maypal, Mayali’ ga Wäŋa: Shellfish, Meaning & Place, A Yolŋu Bilingual Identification Guide to Shellfish of North East Arnhem Land celebrates the insights and differences of two knowledge systems, incorporating seven Yolŋu languages, English and Latin names, and with exquisite photography it reveals hundreds of beautiful shellfish of the northern coastline. The wise say we must not forget the meaning and place of maypal in our words, in the songs of place and the spirit of land and sea.
Billi yaka limurr dhu moma dhäwu ŋaraka ga mayali’ maypalgu bamanpuy ga dhärruk ŋurruŋaŋgalgu. Walu ga wata wapurrar ŋayi manymak maypalgu ga warray wirripu walu dhu ga wata wutthu’wutthun maypal ga binydjitjthirr ŋayi dhu. Dhiyaŋ bala ga yuṯa miyalkthu ga ḏirrimuw walal dhu ga moma ŋaraka ga mayali’ maypalgu, ga bayŋu walal gi guyaŋi dhäwu ga rom maypalgu.
This is a story for the children. This is a story about shellfish and the places that they live.
TPH 1277. Children’s buŋgul at Ŋarawundhu, Miliŋimbi. D. F. Thomson. Courtesy of the Thomson family and Museum Victoria. Page 19 Maypal, Mayali’ ga Wäŋa: Shellfish, Meaning & Place.
Dhuwal dhäwu djamarrkuḻiw ŋayi dhu marŋgithirr maypalgu nhä ŋayinytja maypal ga ŋorra limurruŋgu ga bulu dhäwu dhu ḻakarram wanha wäŋaw walalaŋgu maypalgu dhika djuḏum’ŋur, raŋiŋur ga ḻarrthaŋur wäŋa walalaŋgu. Dhuwal djorra djamarrkuḻiw matha ga yäku wirripu matha ga ŋorra marr ga walal dhu marŋgithirr nhä yaku ŋayi maypal ga ŋorra ga yaku mala ga dharrawa wirripu mathakurr limurruŋgu ga mayali’ ga wirripu dhärruk ga ŋorra. Manymak marŋgithirr walal dhu ga maypalgu romtja ga mayali’ ga djäka wäŋaw ga ŋuthan marrtji manymakthirri. Billi yaka limurr dhu moma dhäwu bamanpuy ga dhärruk ŋurruŋaŋgalgu.
This beautifully illustrated, scientifically precise, full colour reference contextualizes data about shellfish and environment illuminating the intimate links of Yolŋu knowledge and ancestral connection to sea country and its delicate living abundance. Striking Yolŋu poetry from the old and wise, and those who have gone before, accompany maps and illustrations that resonate with the spiritual dimension of this magical volume. In its words are worlds. Will Stubbs of Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Arts of Yirrkala tells us ‘It has the weight and feel of a prayer book. And in a way it is. It is a reverence … a ritual incantation of this knowledge and these names that they may live on in the hearts and minds of the people who live with them for eternity’
Djalu Gurruwiwi, Yolŋu elder
“As the seasons change we think of the old people, the ancestors, we think of gathering maypal.”
In 1993 I was doing a stopover at Maṯamaṯa and Rurruwuy homelands as a visiting teacher. At that time Doris Yethun Burarrwaŋa was the outstations teacher at Maṯamaṯa. Yapa (sister) was committed to helping children know their kin, country and language. (familiar plaint). We shared a strong desire to help the next generation ready themselves for another wave of relentless state-imposed assimilation. She said she wanted to prepare them to try and keep the homelands and its language. Yet to come was the bitter ‘Intervention’, ‘better futures’, ‘growth towns’ and still more imperial horrors rebadged ‘help’, the quiet strangulation of homelands and a new stolen generation taking children as ‘responsibility to protect’. We found solace among the maypal.Doris and her family taught me of the joy of this country out hunting for maypal. There, off the rocks of Gikal, we found the legendary Giant Black-Lipped Rock oysters(ṉamura), eaten raw (ŋäṉarr) or lightly roasted in their shells (ḻuku), the ‘nectar’, the ‘Golden Fleece’, how rare, how sweet it is. It was this early exposure to the beauty of shell fish that inspired a further twenty years of investigation on the western islands.
Handing out Maypal.
Up here in the North of Australia people share maypal. We have been sharing the story of Maypal, Mayali’ ga Wäŋa: Shellfish, Meaning & Place across North East Arnhem Land. With support from NAILSMA we have been giving this book out to schools and homelands for free. The spirit of this book is in the gift of those who have gone before, in the intergenerational obligation to help the young ‘walk in the footsteps of the ancestors’, a gift of so many ancestral journeys. Each pathway a different way, each country a different country, a different language. Accordingly, in making this book for such a broadly differentiated linguistic audience, so many different identities, sixty or more bäpurru ‘clans’, in very different places, for teachers and researchers, we had to utilise lot of different names from a lot of different languages.Map of North East Arnhem Land homelands, communities and sites. Page 6-7 Maypal, Mayali’ ga Wäŋa: Shellfish, Meaning & Place.
There are some very important differences between the five major ex-mission communities [growth towns] in North East Arnhem Land. Yirrkala, Gapuwiyak, Galiwin’ku, Ramingining and Milingimbi, not to mention the spiritual birthplaces (yirralka) of their populations from a dwindling number of homelands. Each of these ex-mission ‘communities’ are made up of very distinctive amalgams of families, ‘totemic heaps’, kinship complexes, networks, nodal individuals, interest groups, service providers and visitors. Each has been informed and shaped by different contact histories, geographic settings and community politics. Moreover, their relative position within a complex pre-existing ancestral geography entail distinctive metaphysical predispositions within the Yolŋu universe. One size cannot fit all. From among the diversity of these multiple choices we searched for a title for the Maypal Book. This book’s name, Maypal, Mayali’ ga Wäŋa: Shellfish, Meaning & Place, talks to the importance of place and its different yet connected meanings to Yolŋu people across diverse histories, stories, ages, backgrounds and settings.
Organisation of the text reflects the significance of difference.
Lists of Yolŋu ecological communities indicate the place, home or wäŋa where particular maypal live and may be found. A key to identification reveals the many Yolŋu names for maypal, also alternative scientific (Linnaean) identifications that have been recorded in the past, as these may still have some currency for ongoing research, and so are linked to a robust list of sources. The Yolŋu moiety; Dhuwa or Yirritja, of maypal is recorded and importantly – the most commonly used eastern and western regional Yolŋu names currently used by Yolŋu, appear as headwords. This means that the names most familiar in the East-Mewatj region, and those more familiar in the West-Gatjirk region, are to be found with their own separate headwords and recorded in bilingual alphabetical order.
Orthography, Spelling and Difference.
Bilingual alphabetical order a ä b d ḏ dh dj e g i k l ḻ m n ṉ nh ny ŋ o p r rr t ṯ th tj u w y ’
Recognition of the ritual and religious significance of geo-linguistic similarities and differences is a necessary conceptual precondition for a book like this. Additionally, it is fruitful to recognise this knowledge has been passed on by word of mouth for a thousand generations. That’s why we found it challenging to imagine an appropriate design for this priceless repository of knowledge, let alone light upon a standardised mode, convention and language of representation. Less challenging and more flexible, in terms of spelling at least, was the choice of orthography. We chose spelling rules and orthography as applied to Yolŋu languages throughout north-east Arnhem Land. While based on the order of the English alphabet the Yolŋu bilingual alphabetical order keeps the distinctive sounds in Yolŋu languages grouped together.
The Importance of Cultural Difference
Finely calibrated linguistic difference is a key signifier of distinctive ancestral inheritances vital to discriminating local identities. For this reason, the spelling of names is of paramount consequence. However, a generous number of variations of spelling was found for each of the many elicitations of Yolŋu names for shellfish over the years. Well over a thousand different names were uncovered with most having at least two or three prospective spellings. In the end, those that could be found in David Zorc’s 1986 Yolŋu Matha Dictionary became the final spelling for all those shellfish names with unresolved or indeterminate spelling.
While travelling around the homelands gathering, naming and recording shellfish varieties and names there was a great sadness about the lack of, and growing pressures from outside and within, to dampen opportunities for children to learn the language of country. Loss of an older generation, fewer visits to country, unfamiliarity with sites, names and ceremonies, lack of exposure to seasonal phenomena, ripening of fruits and return of species and the vicissitudes of modern life all-over convinced us to search for old names and synonyms for maypal. This is why we have complemented the maypal text with bäpurru specific synonymous and alternate names or guruŋay dhäruk, for all the different shellfish species we found.This strategy of supplementing Maypal, Mayali’ ga Wäŋa with guruŋay dhäruk; old or high language, has multiple benefits in diversity, interest and its potential to enhance children’s knowledge of their linguistic heritage. Prompted by elders to restore guruŋay dhäruk, we have inserted a ‘richer more intellectually stimulating lexicon’ into the maypal story to enrich children’s education. Reintroduction of uncommon and interesting synonyms for key words in the text helps emphasise the richness of Yolŋu language and familiarises a new generation with an endangered lexicon, highlighting wider linguistic and ecological relationships more broadly.Openly the Maypal, Mayali’ ga Wäŋa: Shellfish, Meaning & Place project is about bilingual approaches to local knowledge and science around shellfish. It’s also about the intergenerational transfer of ancestral knowledge with an inclusive vision for a cultural future. Enormous and seemingly unstoppable state sponsored pressures continue to deny homelands residence, fully funded bilingual education, full two-way learning and opportunities for intergenerational transmission and in so bequeathing an overwhelming, and non-accidental, burden on the kids of tomorrow and Indigenous futures. The challenge of this future, where cultures with different world views exist in the same time and space, is creating a space where both can co-exist and positively engage with each other.Dozens of [closing] outstations scattered along the coast evidence an extensive pre-existing network of Yolŋu sacred sites, song lines and waŋarr journeys that constitute a magnificent endangered ancestral geography of global significance. This network of sites, linked by extended strings of kinship, are at the heart of managing and living on country. Life on country that nurtures mutually supporting bonds of kin, language and a priceless disappearing local environmental knowledge, values that have sustained the indigenous estate for eons. Irreplaceable knowledge of life we must cherish. Only homelands provide the opportunity for intergenerational transmission of this rare and distinctive local knowledge.From a more global perspective, the greater part, and last, of the less than one hundred indigenous Australian languages that still exist, are found in the N.T on the homelands. The homelands are being dismantled by governments of all colour. In North east Arnhem Land people typically spoke Yolŋu languages as first languages, but, their children are still denied classification as ESL (English as a Second Language) learners by the N.T education department. Remote education, what little is offered, and denied on homelands, has repeatedly refused to acknowledge the ESL status of forty percent of the school age cohort of the Northern Territory, to ‘save money’, much of which is syphoned off for urban schools.  ESL speakers, learning key concepts in their home languages first, may then translate these understandings into English, for non-Yolŋu literate visitors. Clearly it is not only Yolŋu children that are missing out.At its heart, Shellfish, Meaning & Place is about Yolŋu knowledge’s. Yolŋu ways of collaborating, exchanging and engaging brought the project to life. The process of cultural and linguistic translation of the north gains more import as we come to recognise our status as visitors. However ill prepared and temporary our engagement with this place we must not destroy it. The merry-go-round of teachers, nurses and service providers barely awake to the delicate subtlety of Indigenous relationships to country unintentionally tear at its edges. Engagement with Yolŋu ways of collaborating, exchanging and engaging together help balance unequal power so often vested in visitors, thereby creating potentials for genuine relations, links of emotional connection and indebtedness between people that enhance both ways of knowing.Yolŋu people must be allowed, supported and encouraged to continue to look after the 1597 km of mainland coast and a greater 1778 km of island shoreline, its names and its languages. The State cant do it, even if it wanted to, an none can give life to the dead.
Maypal, Winds and the Ancestors.
And then what of a more poetic emotional engagement with maypal and the deep past. The songs of maypal reverberating in the memory. In the names of the maypal are the names of the ancestors forming the linkages between heaven and earth, of a mystical spirit world hidden in bright moonlight on the sea. Here-in light, in the sea and maypal are the people’s names, the names of places. How do these names affect us, how do metaphysics and memory shape our psychic identities and our ways of remembering.It’s a new day and on the salty wind the sound of the sea whispers hints of memories of other lives buried deep within our being. In the sounds of the sea half heard names speak to those who have gone, speak to memories in the endless cycle of existence and non-existence. The Yan-nhaŋu people say, rathaŋu djiŋgamurryun. The sound of the sea on the voice of the wind. Rathaŋu djiŋgamurryun, can be heard from all over the islands, in it the supernatural sound signifying ancestral powers present in the everyday. This sound permeates the sleeping and waking world, the world of dreams and of the ancestors. The song of maypal.To paraphrase Will, It is a prayer, a ritual incantation of names, of knowledge, and a prayer that they live on in the hearts and minds of the people for eternity. I have left the last word for Baymarrwaŋa;
Baymarrwaŋa (Yan-nhaŋu)-When we hear the wind-
Lima barrŋarra ŋalumaya wata dhuptana gurrku gayaŋa warguguyana mana limalanha ŋurruṉaŋgalbu.
Ŋalumaya wata dhuptana gurrku gayaŋa ŋalima yindi mitji gaṉtumunha guya luthana buḻaŋgitjirri.
Ŋalumaya wata dhuptana gurrku gayaŋa ganatjirri dhawal-ŋaruna djiŋgamurryun man’taṉ maypal buḻaŋgitjirri runu-runu nyena dhakaldhakalmurru.
Ŋalumaya wata dhuptana lima barrŋarra limalama ŋurruṉaŋgalbu yanakuŋu gurrku ran’tan-mindapuma bäyku dhawal-ŋaruna dhagarra dhulamunu Miliŋinbiŋa, Rapumaŋa, Murruŋga, Gurribali maypal man’taṉ runurunumurru nyena dhakal-dhakalmurru gurrgurramurru nhankum, bilamunu.
When we hear the wind blow our thoughts turn to our ancestors.
When the wind blows our fish traps fill with fish.
When the wind blows the distant sea brings shellfish to the islands.
When the wind blows we hear the ancestors of the distant sea creating shellfish for the islands, yielding the food of island people, amen.
Day, MM, (1993). Habermasian Ideal Speech: Dreaming the (Im)possible Dream, Accounting& Finance Working Paper 93/13, School of Accounting & Finance, University of Wollongong,
 Mulkuṉ Wirrpanda – Maypal- Shellfish of the Arafura Coast, Salon Indigenous Arts Projects in association with Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Arts Yirrkala, Outstations- Art from Art centres, Paul Jonstone Gallery, 1-31 August 2018 Outstation. Vickers St Parap, Darwin.
 Djalu Gurruwiwi, Yirriṉiṉba Dhurrkay, Galinini Yunupiŋu, Djarrka, p 12 in James, B. (2016) Maypal, Mayali’ ga Wäŋa: Shellfish, Meaning & Place. A Yolŋu Bilingual Identification Guide to Shellfish of North East Arnhem Land. NAILSMA Ltd. Tien Wha press, Sydney, Singapore.
 https://theaimn.com/media-silence-nt-govt-caught-stealing-2-billion-from-indigenous-budget/The report revealed that successive governments under-spent on allocated Indigenous and remote disadvantage GST funding. The total of under-spending has now reached around $2.2 billion dollars. In 2014, we saw outrage when Tony Abbott and Warren Mundine announced nationwide Indigenous budget cuts of over $500 million. Now it has been revealed that $2 billion was stripped secretly from some of the most disadvantaged Aboriginal communities and there is nothing but silence.
 The Responsibility to Protect doctrine is the enabling principle that first obligates states and then the international community to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. (These crimes (assimilation) continue to be perpetrated on Australian Indigenous people and misrepresented by the Settler State).
 The plight of the homelands is another festering blister on the future of all Australians as their populations are discriminated against, denied citizen’s rights, adequate health care, housing, and education while the value of an intact indigenous estate is neglected, obfuscated and misrepresented. For Yolŋu children it is a glimpse of the diversity of opportunity to be denied them in their lives to come.
 NTG misleadingly and mendaciously labels NT indigenous ESL students EALD (English as an Additional Language or Dialect). A dishonest ploy to negate their full obligation under United Nations law to provide adequate first language education in the chosen location, homeland or community.
 A cultural future as described by Francis Kelly and Eric Michaels 1988 celebrates the embeddedness of people in country, law and languages and values thoughtful collaboration across knowledge systems.
 In the Australian context local knowledge is a decisive feature of Indigenous culture in the education realm (Schwab: 2003, 2015: Fogarty: 2015; Altman: 2010, 2015). Fully supported first language cultural competence valorises local knowledge giving confidence and psychological resilience to ESL learners in cross cultural and mainstream contexts. The practices of a [purposefully?] poorly equipped and critically underfunded remote education system obstruct bilingual and Two-Way learning, increasing local disadvantage (White: 2015; Piva: 2016; Nicolls: 2005). However, to be fair, remote education delivery to cattle stations is much more fully resourced.