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Sandra Woosup and Charles Woosup — Ankamuthi

SANDRA WOOSUP: It’s been a long time since I’ve been to this island, Thunada. But it’s the same feeling I’ve got inside of me. The same feeling as I felt before when I first come here. I only speak for my clan group — my tribal group. The Ankamuthi people.

When coming onto the island, the woman would stay in the camp — the safer area like the beach. They’d go collecting shells, prepare the fire, get the food ready while the men would go out further into the sea to get turtle, fish, stingray.

CHARLES WOOSUP: I’m from the Ankamuthi clan group. The gathering of foods is the most important thing, you know. People, families, go out. The ladies do their part of gathering, the men probably go out hunting in the reefs.

SANDRA WOOSUP: Just look, I’m finding one of our shells. Silel, we call it, silel. We boil this. This is how we look for the shells.

CHARLES WOOSUP: We can use the ant hill like an earth oven. To cook stuff in it. Make a hole here, dig him up inside. Just make him nice and clean, then light a fire here or put hot rocks or something inside, then they put food. They use him as an earth oven. They can cook food inside as well.

SANDRA WOOSUP: So when it’s ripe it gets like this and it bursts open. Just rub that off, take all that rough bit out, and you eat the inside of it. There’s a peanut inside this hard flesh here. The bush peanut, in our language, we call it utang.

CHARLES WOOSUP: Growing up, we were not allowed to speak our own language. Even my Dad, even in their time, you know.

SANDRA WOOSUP: Our uncles, aunties, and all of our grandparents, when colonisation happened, they had to speak English. And if they got caught talking their language to each other in class they get reported to the teacher and they get flogged afterwards.

This seaweed like this — but in the water when it’s fresh — all this round bit we use. We get it from the seaweed when it’s green and it’s still good. And we crack it in the mouth of our little ones to help them speak words, sentences properly. Like they’ll say, 'must put that seaweed in the child’s mouth to make them speak clear and learn the words so they won’t stutter or anything but they’ll speak properly'. And see that noise? We pop that into the child’s mouth. We do. We pop it in their mouth to speak clear.

CHARLES WOOSUP: It’s good to come back to this island again and talk about it you know because things like this we don’t talk about it as often, you know. Since our old people gone. There’s just what memory’s left from what they told us. That’s all we got there.

SANDRA WOOSUP: We stand today strong. I stand here as an Ankamuthi speaking person, my language. And as an Ankamuthi untaamu, Ankamuthi woman. So that’s who I am and that’s my identity I pass onto my children. And that’s most important for all of us to maintain that because that’s who we are.

CREDITS: Thank you to Aunty Sandra Woosup and Charles Woosup for sharing their time and knowledge. Special thanks to Dave Hartwell, Amanda Ewart. Editor Peter O’Donoghue. Produced by Dwayne Wyles, Carmen Pratap. Filmed on Ankamuthi country.

Produced by the ABC. Financed with the assistance of the National Museum of Australia. Copyright 2019

Watch Ankumuthi on Possession Island video

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