CULTURAL LEARNING: Eidsvold State School students opened the Bush Spirit Festival with a Wakka Wakka performance.
CULTURAL LEARNING: Eidsvold State School students opened the Bush Spirit Festival with a Wakka Wakka performance. Alex Treacy

Students delve into bush spirit

HEADS, shoulders, knees and toes, eyes and ears and mouth and nose.

These beloved words are impressed upon children from a young age and they are recalled almost effortlessly in adulthood.

Yet at Eidsvold State School, there is an entire other way of singing this iconic nursery rhyme.

It goes "Mau, wali, boondoor, djinang, meel, binang, dumbar, mi.

This is how you sing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes in the Wakka Wakka language.

The performance was given as part of the school's opening of the Eidsvold Bush Spirit Festival on Saturday, coincidentally at the end of National Reconciliation Week (May 27-June 3).

The school's Wakka Wakka language reclamation program was recognised at the recent Queensland Reconciliation Awards, where they were a finalist.

Principal Preston Parter said Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes was the first thing students learned.

Language reclamation is part of the school's wider "Yumbin” (Wakka Wakka for "everyone”) program, aspects of which were displayed on Saturday.

First, teacher aide Corey Appo led students in a rendition of Gari Gynda Narmi, a welcome dance.

"Many believe that Gari Gynda Narmi was originally a gifted dance given to other tribal groups by the Wakka Wakka people,” Mr Appo said.

"This occurred at the annual Bunya nut festival many years ago in the Bunya Mountains.”

Then, students performed a Mosquito Dance, which involved the swishing of branches.

Mr Appo said this dance commonly occurred while walking through mangroves, to both shoo mosquitoes and flick mud up to coat exposed body parts.

This was followed by the Eagle Dance, where students enacted an eagle swooping down for its prey.

Finally, students read from Nende for lunch, an illustrated book the school created, which mixes Wakka Wakka and English words.

Mr Parter said students were in the process of creating more illustrated books.

Wakka Wakka elder Aunty Yvonne Chapman said it was a special performance and that she appreciated the opportunity to see it.

Mrs Chapman said the land on which the RM Williams Bush Learning Centre now stood was known by the Wakka Wakka as "Lover's Lane”, a meeting place for courtship.

She also noted the positive impact RM Williams had on the local area.


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