In June 2014, I had the privilege of spending 12 days at Mapuru. During the two days drive from Darwin, I watched to road transition from tarseal to dirt to mud out the back window. It was mesmerising staring out the window of the troopie as the landscape gradually changing.
I went to this community for three reasons 1. To visit Mapuru Christian School as I had been captured by their story of pursuing a school for over 20 years 2. To attend a women’s weaving workshop run by the women in this community. 3. To be out of my way of seeing the world for a time and learn from people who see the world differently to me.
I learnt many things. Many things my mind has been trying to understand, but over time I know it is my heart that will make sense of these things.
One thing that I learnt from my Aboriginal brothers and sisters is a holistic view of my relationship to the world around me. In my culture, we have many words for relationships with other people e.g. friend, father, sister, cousin, mate, wife, partner. However, we have very few words to describe our relationship to the world around us. Some may refer to the world as Mother Earth or Gaia, but our relationship words stop there.
For the people at Mapuru, land and food are our part of their family. One day Roslyn, one of the woman from Mapuru, took us to drink from a sacred stream where water bubbled up from the ground. It was fresh, sweet and felt almost holy. The stream was lined with moss as luscious as a fur coat. To Roslyn, this stream is her grandmother. And this relational connection gives Roslyn a respect, love and responsibility for this place.
I look at the world around me. For many of us, the world is a source of resources for us to use to develop and progress. We do not often stop to think about how we should relate to particular places and resources. We have become more aware of the need to recycle and engage sustainable practices, yet without a relational connection to the land, our responsibility is only superficial.
Deep down, I’ve always known that the created world around me is sacred, holy and something I must care for. What I learnt at Mapuru was that there are other cultures that can teach us how to engage with the world. This community wove the created world into their relational system. They see Creator God (Waŋarr) evident in the created world around them, so this gives places much significance.
I enjoyed stopping under the stars when I had to make a dash for the toilet in the middle of the night. I enjoyed walking along the beach at Buckingham Bay. I enjoyed trying to identify the correct roots for dye (despite being wrong most of the time!). I enjoyed walking across the mudflats as the girls found food all along the way.
I am learning afresh that this created world is holy. It is alive with the spirit of Creator God. The people at Mapuru have reminded me of this and I am enjoying the world with new eyes.