Indigenous Languages of Australia
Featuring Shellie Morris
Precious gemstones that come out of the Earth through the uplifted voice of Shellie Morris, characterise this Australian singer/songwriter’s music. Shellie has been sharing insights into sacred connection of people to the land through song for many years. While also mastering a range of musical arts styles, Shellie brings her guitar into a fluid tuning with voice in sultry, bluesy, folk rock ballads. She has also achieved getting her vocals around 17 indigenous languages, having felt the call to re-connect with her winding family branches in the Northern Territory. Some of these are languages that have struggled to survive against the imposition of English speaking conformity of early Australian settlers, although efforts are being made to reawaken and preserve them today. Shellie Morris is one of those powerful motivators of this cause, she has even been crowned as Northern Territory Australian of the Year in 2014.
What is important about preservation of languages? Natural communication is allowed to flow. This is certainly evident in the harmonic unity of voices heard together in song, particularly when tribal or family groups bring stories passed on and felt strongly, clearly heard this way when they have indigenous roots which go so far back as 1000’s of years, continuing to be shared. Connection to land can be felt as distinctly just as earthy bass vibrates through the land while barefeet dance upon it, or like the sonorous depths a didgeridoo is responsible for outputting.
Through these preserved ancient languages from any culture, others can experience these feelings, and also learn, to get to find the true identity of things around them they may have never known. Native languages hold the secrets of the land, the plants, animals, the astronomical and atmospheric elements. Which symbolically through preservation is key to unlocking the true wisdom inherent to the planet.
This comes across in the results of Shellie’s recordings with over 11 of her elders from the Borroloola Songwomen, who are the custodians of her personal indigenous song cycles. Traditions, local culture, history and wisdom are shared through the song cycles. Songs the elder Borroloola Songwomen recalled hearing the first time in ceremonies they crossed waters amidst islands to attend, as young children. The recording of approximately 60 of these cherished songs have resulted from these sessions, to live on and be shared with all cultures, as translations and narratives are included with the CDs produced.
From there, her musical wandering has continued with recordings and performances through communities and cities, ever building a strong following on foot. Shellie Morris gets to travel into regions many dream of seeing, and to see as the locals, living amongst, and singing with them. She facilitates musical workshops in the communities, often working with the kids, encouraging their voice and keeping the spark of enthusiasm for original languages alive. Constantly learning, teaching, sharing and creating adds true value to the ride of success. And of course composing all the beautiful new tunes, exploring so many more languages all the time.
Languages are also complimentary to music. The way words which are structured to communicate that when sung sound instrumental, and add so much to the layers. Just the sort of diversity of sound that lovers of music, particularly explorers of world tunes or culture enthusiasts, crave to discover While grounding us to the earth we are from..
Shellie shares with us:
“Our connection to land and sea as Indigenous First Nations people is a true reason to give power back to the people of the land, of course, and if we all walk together listening to each other this country will be much better off… “
Having seen the best of many worlds, through travelling widely as a successful musician, she can still make this call to entrust the planet back to those who had preserved it for so many 1000’s of years until overdone industrialisation. And so do many other people, from all cultures, acknowledging a valid solution to some serious problems facing the future of the environment now. Languages are a part of the identities of First Nations people – from Australia, to the world, where approximately 7000 native languages are currently spoken, so deserve to also be recognised as treasure. Participation in diverse also creative forms of communication is a way.
2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Which in itself needs to be spoken louder, as not many people seem to be aware of this. It has been brought to attention that of these diverse dialects, 2068 are endangered. The importance of preservation is a reason for the International Year of Indigenous Languages, the aim of the United Nations is stated as comprising 5 elements, which are: knowledge, peace, rights, inclusion, diversity.
When you take your next holiday to Australia, it could totally enhance your experience if you were to pause somewhere off the common trodden paths and into the nature, to sing and dance with the locals, learning a meaningful, ancient song from the soul of the Earth. Twister Travel asked Shellie Morris to name her favourite place in the Northern Territory. She recommends Ngurrungurrudjba, home of the Murrumburr clan, also known to tourists as Yellow Waters. Only words to describe the raw beauty found throughout the Northern Territory in any language may be difficult to find…
Jambala lhanji anthaa
Layili nganji ji-anthaa
Kulu ngarna janinju
Calling we saltwater people from island to island
Here we all are
The people whose spirits come from the sea
We are the people who are kin
To the island country
Calling from island to island
Calling from island to island
We are saltwater people
We know the sea
We are saltwater
We are people who are kin
The sea knows me
For we are…