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World premiere, new CSO commission supported by Clive & Lynlea Rodger
Two years ago, at the Yuwaalaraay/ Yuwaalayaay/ Gamilaraay Language and Culture Nest in Lightning Ridge, amongst posters and pictures of country and people filling the language nest walls, a printed piece of paper caught my eye. It was a single word, black lettering on a white page. When I asked my cousin, a language worker, what it was and why it was there, she told me of the birth of the word. Cilla said that she and other language workers had been developing a word in response to requests for a Yuwaalaraay translation for ‘love’. After explaining that our language doesn’t include concepts comparable to the conventional western, romantic understanding of love, she began to unpack the word they had developed and pinned to the wall only weeks before.
Our language places a deep significance on the importance of listening. To give you some kind of clue as to its emphasis, the seat of Yuwaalaraay knowledge is considered as residing in the ear. So, the more you listen, the more you know. Winangay is a word that demonstrates this. Winangay (win-ung-ngay) means to listen, to think, to know, to remember, to understand and to acknowledge.
To me, winangay it is a powerful pointer into how we need to move in the world. Because of its cultural weight and its relationality, winangay was agreed as a perfect foundation upon which to build the concept of ‘love’.
Cilla went on to teach me that the -lay suffix in our language means a continuous action and the -laya suffix signifies an action shared between two. The word printed and stuck on the wall then was a Yuwaalaraay Love: the continuous listening, knowing, thinking, remembering, understanding and acknowledgement shared between two.
The piece’s two main motifs were developed as vocal lines, singing counterpointing winangaylaylayas to the other. In that way I have attempted to bring voices and bodies of relationship into the playing and sharing of the word and its meaning.
Thank you to Priscilla Strasek Barker, Walgan Brenda McBride and the language workers at the Yuwaalaraay/ Yuwaalayaay/ Gamilaraay Language and Culture Nest for showing me the generosity, resilience, and beauty of our languages. Thank you to my niece Muran Te Peeti who, while I composed this piece, drew beside me. Her designs are a part of our winangaylaylaya and this composition. Thank you to the Canberra Symphony Orchestra for the opportunity to share my connection with my language, community, and family, and a final thanks to all those musicians who will play, feel and share this form of love – from their ears to the ears and hearts of others.
© Nardi Simpson, July 2023