What Rhymes with Ngapartji? Ngapartji!

It’s hard for me to think that Ngapartji Ngapartji (freely translated from Pitjantjatjara, “I give you something, you give me something”) is concluding. I never had the opportunity to see the stage show, Trevor Jamieson’s personal and yet epic history of the colonization of Pitjantjatjara lands from the first signs of intruders through the aftermath of the Maralinga atom bomb testing. Everyone I know who did see it thought it an amazing and most affecting piece of theatre. Perhaps the documentary mentioned in the announcement above will give me a taste of it someday.In the meantime, Ngapartji Ngapartji lives on at the project’s website. For me, one of the enduring facets of this site is the opportunity it offers to experience the Pitjantjatjara language in a way that I would never be otherwise able to. Through a combination of animation, photos, sound clips and short movies, I’m able to hear native speakers presenting elementary language lessons. There are 18 lessons in all, and though I don’t think they’ll ever lead to fluency, they have given me a start on a basic grasp of the spoken language. Along with the Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara to English Dictionary I received when I signed up for the online lessons, the website has offered me a small niche in the country. I’ve always believed that learning to speak another’s language offers subtle insights of a sort that can’t be grasped in any other way. (Traveling in Japan many years ago I learned what it means to be illiterate: after a week of not being able to read anything I saw and spending evenings immersed in Learn Japanese in Seven Days (ha!) I ventured out of the hotel one morning and saw a sign across the street that said “bank”–in Japanese characters, of course. The sense of revelation and release was magnificent.)

Just a short post today. I’m up to my ankles in snow and ice this weekend, and around here that counts as a major winter weather event. Time to get back behind the shovel!


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