Ganma: A Confluence of Rivers
Exhibit 1 from Singing the Land, Signing the Land (Verran/Chambers)
Important Note: We have called the following passage an ‘exhibit’, meaning that it constitutes an exhibition of ideas and concepts contained in representations (both visual and verbal). It is not an easy read, nor could it be, but it is short and to the point. Singing the Land, Signing the Land encompasses a total of six exhibits. The exhibits were written by Helen Verran (based on the work of members of the Ganma Research Project at Yirrkala*) and Wade Chambers (based on the work of the members of the Imagining Nature Textbook Project at Deakin University and the Institute of American Indian Arts*). In the last few paragraphs this exhibit proposes a path forward for cultural and political reconciliation in Australia.
Metaphor in Theory and Practice
Yolngu people see a powerful metaphor in the meeting and mixing of two streams which flow-one from the land, the other from the sea-into a mangrove lagoon on Caledon Bay in NE Arnhemland. The theory of this confluence, called gaṉma, holds (in part) that the forces of the streams combine and lead to deeper understanding and truth.
It is an ancient metaphor, one which has served Yolngu people well in the past. In recent discussions among the Yolngu and those non-Aboriginal Australians they have chosen to work with them, gaṉma theory has been applied to the meeting of two cultures–Aboriginal and Western.
Thus, we may use the term ‘ganma’ in English to refer to the situation where a river of water from the sea (Western knowledge) and a river of water from…