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Knowing Place / Adnabod Lle

Acrylig ar ganvas / acrylic on canvas, 136 x 97cm 

Mae Geremoot, Dart’yung, Yowen Burren a Ngarrak Walang yn bedwar enw yn iaith Gunnai/ Kŭrnai ar Afon Nicolson, yn East Gippsland, Victoria, Awstralia. Sef afon Nicholson, fel y cafodd ei henwi ym 1839 gan Angus McMillan, i anrhydeddu Charles Nicholson, a gynrychiolodd ardal Port Phillip ar Gyngor Deddfwriaethol De Cymru Newydd ac yn nes ymlaen a fu’n Ysgrifennydd y Trefedigaethau. Ni fu Nicholson i weld yr afon erioed. Trwy ailenwi’r afon cafodd enwau gwreiddiol yr afon a’u cysylltiadau â’r wlad eu colli a’u tywyllu.


Geremoot, Dart’yung, Yowen Burren and Ngarrak Walang are the four Gunnai/Kŭrnai names for the Nicolson River, situated in East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. The Nicholson River was named in 1839 by Angus McMillan to honor Charles Nicholson, who had represented the Port Phillip District on the New South Wales Legislative Council and was later a Colonial Secretary. Nicholson never visited the river. The renaming of the river allowed the river’s original names and their connection to the country to be lost and obscured.


by Earl Livings

For Veronica Calarco and her Knowing Place series, Stiwdio Maelor, Wales

To birth our first tongue

we plunge into the music

of those who speak to us

and around us, cradle

to kitchen table, make sense

out of our nonsense replies

to their words, fine-tune

our ear and mind with chatter,

books and blackboard lessons,

live the language in landscapes

of playground, city, country

and nature, till world and words

become our own music

without our thinking of it


To earn a second language

needs more than paper learning

from dictionary and grammar book,

which can only give us

Mae’r haul yn disgleirio,

‘The sun is shining’,

Not Mae’r haul yn gwenu,

‘The sun is smiling’,

the native speaker’s lifetime

of intimate rhythms

in landscape and breath


Harder still to express two worlds

of adoption and heritage

in picture or story when the words

and melody of one are lost,

or fragmented, or withheld,

snatches, glimpses, hints only

to help us reconstruct

Ngarrak walang, back-stone,

from the phrase itself, not

from the lived learning

of landscape and speaker—

back of the stone, behind the stone,

a stone to rest the back


Leaving us the only burden:

to make sense of more than

stolen histories, faded music

by quickening with tools

of haunted eye, ear and mind

a death-right anthem that rouses

and haloes all our worlds

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