• Amipuru, 1967, Ephraim Bani, 1791 Margaret Lawrie Collection of Torres Strait Islands Material - features in the Spoken exhibition. (State Library of Queensland.)Source: State Library of Queensland.
During the international year of Indigenous languages, 'Spoken' invites the public to learn about shared history through an Aboriginal lens.
Shahni Wellington

20 Nov 2019 - 2:48 PM  UPDATED 20 Nov 2019 - 2:51 PM

The latest exhibition at the State Library of Queensland will explore the survival and revival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and provide a different perspective of the arrival of Europeans to the Australian east coast.. 

'Spoken: celebrating Queensland languages' opens on Thursday, and will showcase the Aboriginal perspective of when Captain Cook's Endeavour 'docked' on Guugu Yimithirr land in the 1700's.

By telling the community story of contact with Cook in Guugu Yimithirr language, exhibit co-curator and Gamilaraay/Gamilaroi man, Desmond Crump, hopes it will help revive endangered First Nations languages. 

"We want people to be aware of the diversity and abundance of our languages, but also understand their fragile nature, that some of them are very much in danger of being lost forever," said Mr Crump.

"Because they're (Aboriginal languages) part of a shared history, it's important that people understand the history of language and its importance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, but also look at how they can help communities to grow their language and bring them back to life."

Research suggest there are over 750 Aboriginal languages and dialects across the country, with at least 125 of those in Queensland. 

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A new perspective.

One focus of the exhibit is to provide an Aboriginal perspective of how Captain James Cook landed on the Wabalumbaal-Endeavour River, located on Cape York Peninsula in Far North Queensland.

An oral history of the series of encounters, as told by Aboriginal people including academic and Bulgun Warra man Harold Ludwick, will sit alongside James Cook's Endeavour Journal - marking only the second time the document has left the National Library of Australia.

Spoken tells stories of how a Guugu Yimithirr Elder used a broken spear as a peace offering to Cook and his men, following an altercation over turtles on the deck of the Endeavour.

The exhibit correlates the two perspectives of Cook's 48-day stay in Far North Queensland, and honours the Guugu Yimithirr people and all original custodians of Aboriginal language. 

Mr Crump said it tells the story through the eyes of the Aboriginal people.

"Everything that was written about us or spoken about us and heard about us, was from the perspective of Cook and Banks, sitting on that Endeavour ship and looking back to the shore," Mr Crump says.

"We want to provide our story from the shore to the ship perspective, let people know this is what was happening from our point of view."

The Spoken: celebrating Queensland languages exhibit is open from the 21 November - 19 April at the State Library of Queensland.

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