ABC OPEN "Mother Tongue" Project Link --- open.abc.net.au/explore/97424
Anyone who has ever lived in a remote Aboriginal community understands the importance of hand signs. These are meant not only for the hearing impaired, but are a bedrock of everyday communication. For many generations they have served as an effective means of communicating detailed messages over long distances throughout Aboriginal Australia.
While many visitors quickly learn the standard “what now?” sign, it is easy to miss the dozens of diverse hand signals being subtly exchanged in conversation. As in all languages, some elements are traditional and others are recent innovations.
Over two shoots just outside of the remote community of Wirrimanu (Balgo) in WA's Great Sandy Desert, five women elders from the Kapululangu Women's Law and Culture Centre explain over 40 hand signs and translate them into Kukatja. As you can see, hand signs are not only a way of communicating information, but also serve as full-bodied ways of expressing nuance, humor, and individual personality.
These women hope to help Australians from all over the continent understand a different side of Aboriginal language in remote communities, and welcome you to visit them on their Dreaming Tracks and Women's Law Camps.