Remembering Darby

Posted on November 10th, by Liam in Blog, Yuendumu. Comments Off on Remembering Darby

Remembering Darby

I was thinking about Darby today and came across these words which I read out at his funeral five years ago. First in Warlpiri, then in English (edited).

Nyurru-wiyirna yanurnu Yurntumu-kurra-ju.

Nyanungu-rla nyanu ngajukujurlu yungu yirdiji Japanangka.

Ngularnaju, pina-yanurnu.

Ngajuku nyanungu-ju ngamarni-lpajulu nyinaja.

Tarrnga-jukurna nyinaja.

Wangkajalpa – nyanunguju yimi ngarrarnu, panu-jarlu yirrarnu ngajuku.

Pinangkalpa ngulaju yangka kuja-ka nyinami yapa nyiya-kanti-kantiki pina.  Yangka kuja-ka milya-pinyi kuruwarri panu, manu kuja-ka yunparni purlapa pinangku.

Pina-pina-manu-ju ngulaju yangka kuja kalu-jana yangka ngajuku – Yapa-kurlangu Warlpiri-ji, yimi-ji, Jukurrpa-ju, Nguru-ju manu wirlinyi-ji.

Ngulaju yangka yapa nyanungu-nyayirni milya-pinyi ka kuruwarri manu nyiya-kanti-kanti ngurrju-maninjaku rdirriny-parluju founding member and artist – Warlukurlangu-rla.

Nyanungu-ju purlka nyinajalpa town-rla – yirraru nguru-ku, Yuendumu-ku, yilkajirri-ki

Ngajulu missi-mani karna ngamarni

Wapirra-rlu promisi-ki wangkaja. Nyanunguju kapu live-jarrija Wapirra-kurlangu-rla.

Wapirrarlu ka mardarni jalangurlu. Ngaka karlipa nyanyi jinta-jarrami Wapirra-kurlangurla.

Yirrirlirl-kanjarra-yani yangka rdiily-jarrimi jaru nyanungu-ku English-ji.


I met Jampijinpa about 16 years ago.  He gave me a skin name and told me I could come back anytime.  So, I did.  About four years later, I sat down with him again.

He told me I should buy a Toyota and come out to live at Yuendumu and record some of his stories.  So I did that, too.

Thinking back to that time, I had no idea that this man would have such an impact on me.

He taught me many things.  He told me lots of stories.  And he tried to teach me Warlpiri.

We went on lots of trips in the Toyota in Warlpiri country and further afield.  We went to the places in his stories.  I didn’t always understand what he was telling me, but I think he wanted me to know how the places he talked about were the places we were travelling through, and to make some connections to be able to tell his story.

Jampijinpa told me he wanted to make a book.  And not knowing what that meant, I agreed, and I’ve been trying to do that ever since.

The problem has been that Jampijinpa’s story was so much bigger than I first realised. Many people have helped me along the way, especially Thomas Rice and Paddy Stewart, and some of the other people who are here today.

Jampjinpa wanted people in Yuendumu to hear these stories. His enthusiasm extended to the suggestion of driving around the community playing them on a loudspeaker attached to the roof of my car. While I haven’t done that, I have attempted to put the material together in a way that will be a record for Warlpiri people, but also accessible to an audience beyond this community.

I think it is indicative of Jampijinpa’s character that so many people’s stories are interwoven with his.  His generosity of spirit, respect and enthusiasm for life were infectious and he made friends easily, with both Yapa and Kardiya.

My experience travelling with him is that he was well known in the Aboriginal community in Central Australia.  In researching his life story, I came across many Whitefellas who not only knew Jampijinpa, but felt very close to him.

Jampijinpa was a stockman, a head drover man, a prospector, a cameleer, an explorer and adventurer, a traveller, a gardener, a cook, a butcher, and a mail man.

Jampjinpa was a teacher always ready to learn something new, a leader who encouraged participation and discovery, and an older man who had the enthusiasm and spirit of someone much younger.

He was a talented linguist who spoke several languages with an amazing ability to recall obscure Warlpiri words.  He was sought after in the Warlpiri community for his extensive knowledge and understanding of Warlpiri Jukurrpa and flora and fauna.  He was Francis Kelly’s inspiration for Bush Mechanics.  He was a gifted storyteller concerned with narrative, place and character.  He was a leader and founding member of this Baptist Church.  He was a hunter, a craftsman and a spear thrower.  He was an artist who saw painting as a way to document and maintain Jukurrpa, but also as an outlet for his creative expression.  And he was a strong advocate for the maintenance of Warlpiri Law and Culture.

Jampijinpa spoke to me of the burden of being old.  Of seeing, not only the people he grew up with pass away – his brothers and sisters and friends – but those younger than him – his nieces and nephews.  It was a cause of great sadness for him.  He said, they were walking a different road.

The last few years were hard on Jampijinpa.  While the staff at Hetti Perkins looked after him as best they could, he missed being out in his country.  I think in the end he hung on for his 100 year birthday celebration.  He received letters of acknowledgement from the Queen, the Prime Minister and the Governor General.  His old friend Ted Egan presided over the ceremony and spoke on behalf of the Northern Territory.  Over 100 of his friends and family joined to acknowledge him.  While it was a gathering to celebrate his life, it was also an opportunity to say goodbye, as he passed away the following day.

I think Jampijinpa would want me to say that while his body will rest here in his country, his spirit is now in a better place.

Jampijinpa spoke of Wapirra making him a promise, putting a cross on his chest, and sustaining him throughout his long life. I believe that promise is now fulfilled and he is reunited with his countrymen in that other walya, that place with green grass that he used to talk about.

I will miss this old man.

Jampijinpa used to stand in the front here and pray that Wapirra would make it good for everyone here.  Let us today thank Wapirra for making it good for Darby Jampijinpa.

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