|The Conference | Themes | Speakers | Highlights | Papers & Workshops | Program | The Ganma Metaphor | HOME|
"This metaphor I had learned during earlier visits to Yirrkala Community School in East Arnhem Land, on the coast of the northeast corner of the Northern Territory. Yirrkala has organised their curriculum and teaching around a metaphor of the contact zone where rivers meet the sea, named ganma in one of the local Aboriginal languages. Literally, ganma is where fresh and salt water meet. Metaphorically, ganma is where cultures meet: fresh water is indigenous Yolngu knowledge and practices; salt water is the white Balanda knowledge and practices; and one place where they meet is in school.
Flying in a small plane from Yirrkala west to Darwin after a visit in 1993, l could see clearly the swirls of different colors in the ganma waters: bluer from the sea, browner from the land. Manduwuy Yunupingu, who was principal of Yirrkala when I first visited in 1991, has also described the role of Yothu Yindi, his internationally known rock group, in the meeting place of popular culture in these same ganma terms (Shoemaker 1994).
At first thought, this ganma metaphor may seem to ignore the important power differential between dominant and nondominant cultures in institutions like schools. But if you think again about literal relationships between fresh water and salt, the potential threat of unequal power is there: salt water tides and typhoons can flood the land, while fresh water cannot seriously harm the ocean. But if the two can be kept in balance in the ganma space, then the rich nutrients that come together from the mix of different waters nourishes richly diverse forms of life-biologically in the literal situation, culturally and intellectually in the metaphorical."
Courtney B. Cazden
Quote from 'A Postscript from Alice Springs', in Multiliteracies: Literacy learning and the design of social futures.