Keepers of the flame: songspirals are a university for us

Abstract

“Songspirals are a university for us, they are a map of understandings” (Gay’wu Group of Women, 2019, p. 33). This paper is authored by Bawaka Country, acknowledging Country’s ability to teach and share. Country is homeland and place. Country is everything and the relationships that bring everything to life. Country is knowledge. This paper is shaped and enabled by songspirals. Songspirals are sung and cried by Yolŋu people in north east Arnhem Land, Australia, to awaken Country, to make and remake the life-giving connections between people and place. The Goŋ-gurtha songspiral leads this paper, showing us how a Yolŋu Country-led pedagogy centres Country’s active agency by learning through, with, and as Country. This pedagogy shares with us the ongoing connections within and between generations to ensure that knowledge remains strong and that sharing is done the right way, according to Yolŋu Rom, Law/Lore. This learning is predicated on relationality and responsibility. It is a more-than-human learning in which human knowing is decentred and Country is knowledgeable. It is a learning which recognises and respects its limits and it is a learning in which the ongoing sovereignty of Yolŋu people is front and centre.

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