Songspirals: Sharing women’s wisdom of Country through songlines by Gay’wu Group of Women, Laklak Burarrwanga, Ritjilili Ganambarr, Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr-Stubbs, Banbapuy Ganambarr, Djawundil Maymuru, Sarah Wright, Sandie Suchet-Pearson, Kate Lloyd

Welcome to a very different journey.

The Gay’wu Group of Women (or the ‘dilly bag women’s group) are a group of Yolŋu women from north-east Arnhem Land in Australia’s far north. In this book, they invite us to join them on a journey:

‘We want you to come with us on our journey, our journey of songspirals. Songspirals are the essence of people in this land, the essence of every clan. We belong to the land and it belongs to us. We sing to the land, sing about the land. We are that land. It sings to us.’

This is an incredibly generous book, full of cultural concepts that I find challenging, but which begin to make sense when I step back from the words to appreciate the context. A vibrant oral culture, with some similarities to the storytelling tradition which once prevailed in parts of my heritage. But the Yolŋu songspirals are more vibrant, more connected to place, to Aboriginal concepts of Country which many of us struggle to appreciate or try to understand.

The women share particular songspirals in the book as a way of welcoming us, of giving us a glimpse into their culture and enabling us to explore and to try to understand their importance.

Songspirals are profoundly different ways of explaining the relationship the Yolŋu women have with Country. In order to understand more, I will need to reread this book.  But right now, while I may not understand fully, I begin to understand and appreciate the complexity and vibrance of this oral culture. Thank you to the Gay’wu Group of Women for their generous gift.

I recommend this book to anyone who seeks a better understanding of Aboriginal concepts of Country.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith