Waving to the Other Side: The Language of Poetry in Indigenous Australian Song

Free Public Lecture

Waving to the Other Side: The Language of Poetry in Indigenous Australian Song

Elisabeth Murdoch Theatre A (Room G06)
Elisabeth Murdoch


Spencer Road

Booking not required

Poetry and song are inextricably interwoven in most Indigenous Australian traditions. Yet the poetic masterpieces found across the continent are little known outside their immediate communities, tied up as they are with the intricacies of the languages they are sung in. As a result, Australia has little awareness of the many hundreds of Shakespeares, Keatses and Bob Dylans whose poetic masterpieces are composed in First Nations languages. The same goes for the continent’s rich and varied Indigenous musical traditions.

In this talk Professor Evans will give a glimpse into the richness of the poetic language found across a number of Australian indigenous traditions, focusing on allusive subtlety, inner feeling, multilingual characterisation, the deployment of vocabulary and grammar for expressive nuance, and the role of song in maintaining language knowledge through the powerful emotional charge it generates.

The title of the talk is taken from some lines of a Mayali song by the late and great Djorli Laywanga, a Dalabon songman: Kurebe ngadjowkke ngawayudwayudme, marrek berlnayiii, marrek nuk berlnayiii. ‘From the other side of the river I am waving, I couldn’t see your arm waving back, Maybe I missed your arm waving’.

Professor Evans hopes that the close readings of several poetic masterpieces to be undertaken during the lecture will help span what is seen and heard across the river.

All Free Public Lectures