Saturday, March 31, 2018

Rev Deacon Alan Maratja Dhamarrandji

Congratulations to Rev Deacon Alan Maratja Dhamarrandji, who was ordained a Deacon in the Uniting Church in Australia in March, in his home community of Galiwin'ku (Elcho Island), in northern Australia. Here he is pictured with Rev Deacon Felicity Amery, Presbytery Minister, Northern Synod, Uniting Church in Australia.

For about 30 years Maratja worked on bible translation work in Arnhem Land and has published the Djambarrpuyŋu New Testament. This painstaking labour of love involved large numbers of very skilled Indigenous and non-Indigenous linguists in the deeply cross-cultural exercise of translation.
Former Uniting Church President Rev Alistair Macrae writes: “It helps keep Indigenous languages alive and thereby represents an honouring not only of the language but of the culture as well. Maratja and his family live at Galiwinku on Elcho Island and live out of town on his clan homeland. In his quiet way Maratja and his colleagues in translation are heroes in communication, celebration of culture and commitment to sharing the good news in the language of their people.”

Maratja co-wrote an article in Indigenous Australia and the unfinished business of theology, entitled 'Receive, Touch, Feel, and Give Raypirri'. The abstract reads:
Who we are is about where we are. Identity has to do with the land, which in my case is about an island (Elcho Island). Land is connected with the sea, and the sand, as well as with the animals and the fish. Who we are is about those things together. There is a delicate relationship between Aboriginal people with those things. We don’t own the land or the sea; we are of the land and the sea, and the land and the sea are [with] us. I am from a saltwater people, and so our totems come from the sea. The land and the sea is also the home of our ancestors. The land and the sea are there (present) in our ceremonies. Who we are is about the togetherness of land, sea, ancestors, culture, ceremonies, and us. This is why identity is about land and sea, and all those things in there. Identity is about country.

Where we are is about the people before us and those who come after us. It is about ceremony, language, and culture. I am from the Yolŋu people; we come from northeast Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory. Arnhem Land is very wide, sprinkling out into the sea, and so Elcho Island is part of Arnhem Land. We are Yolŋu because we come from there. But we are Yolŋu also because of the language and culture, meaning that we are Yolŋu because of what our ancestors and elders handed down to us. We are Yolŋu because of what we have received from the people before us. Our children and their children will be Yolŋu because of what we pass on to them. So we are Yolŋu because of where we are, but where we are is not just about the land or the island. Where we are is about many things—land, language, culture, memories, people, etc.—together.

You can read the full article here.
Dhamarrandji M., Havea J. (2014) Receive, Touch, Feel, and Give Raypirri. In: Havea J. (eds) Indigenous Australia and the Unfinished Business of Theology. Postcolonialism and Religions. Palgrave Macmillan, New York

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