More than 200 people have attended the launch of Palawa author David Mangenner Gough’s new picture book as part of NAIDOC week celebrations in north-west Tasmania.
The event was jointly hosted by the Six Rivers Aboriginal Corporation and publisher, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, at Devonport’s Aboriginal museum and cultural centre, Tiagarra.
Titled luwa tara luwa waypa (three kangaroos, three Tasmanian Aboriginal men), the text is a first for the mixed-medium artist who is also a well known cultural practitioner and traditional ceremony performer in lutruwita (Tasmania).
The story tells of a young lutruwita warrior named niyakara (to dream) becoming a man and how he finds strength in connecting with moinee (the creation spirit) to protect a young Aboriginal woman called tuminana (a fairy penguin).
Gough said the three forester kangaroo bucks in the story acted as a metaphorical representation of three lutruwita Elders.
“We are the kangaroo, it does go back to our creation in the background”, he said.
“We have a strong relationship with the forester”.
“I really wanted people to understand our connection to our animals, and our connection to place”.
Although the story “bounced around inside of him” for a number of years, Gough said publishing the text was relatively straightforward.
He was introduced to illustrator Samantha Campbell as part of the production process.
“I was trying to choose an illustrator that would get it and understand it and she loved the story and she really wanted to be able to draw it”, he said.
“It was the perfect fit.”
A shorter version of the book was performed as part of mapali to launch last year’s 10 Days on The Island Festival, which helped Gough complete the story.
“I wanted to see some people playing it out while I was narrating it”, he said.
Dedicating the story to his country, ancestors and family, Gough said he hoped young people could better relate to traditional lutruwita culture after being exposed to the text.
“It’s important to understand our connection to land and animals and the importance of sitting with Elders at the fire,” he said.
A flag raising ceremony, Welcome to Country and culturally inspired dancing around a fire pit were also held as part of NAIDOC week celebrations.
luwa tara luwa waypa is available for purchase through the AIATSIS shop.