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Elizabeth Wandihnu

A Lesson in Pictures

A new book shows us the importance of holding on to culture.

Indigenous Publisher Magabala Bo oks has released a special new book written by a mother and daughter duo

Elizabeth and Wandihnu Wymarra are the proud authors of Wandihnu and the Old Dugong, a contemporary Torres Strait children’s picture book.

Elizabeth and Wandihnu wrote the story as a bonding exercise, never dreaming that their work would be published. But this beautifully interpreted children’s book sends an important message to children Australia-wide.

Wandihnu and the Old Dugong is a modern-day story about Wandihnu, a city girl who returns to Badu Island to learn about culture and language from her Aka (grandmother). Wandihnu becomes distracted, and it is not until her Aka becomes sick that she truly appreciates the value of learning from your Elders.

Having moved to Sydney from the Torres Strait when she was young, Elizabeth knows the importance of holding on to your culture and she is now teaching her daughter, Wandihnu to do the same.

“I have learned to appreciate my culture because I missed out on so much, “Elizabeth says. “When my mum read the book she was speechless. She literally could not express, even in her native tongue, what the book meant to her and the people of Badu Island.”

Wandihnu and the Old Dugong is complemented by soft watercolours from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artist, Benjamin Hodges. An accomplished artist, Benjamin won the NAIDOC national poster competition in 2005. This is his first book.

“It has opened my eyes,” Benjamin says. “I would love to do more books in the future. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live without knowing their culture. They don’t realise what they’ve been missing. It’s never too late to learn.”

Elizabeth Wymarra is a well-known performing artist and comedian. She sees the rewards in being able to express yourself through writing, and encourages Wandihnu to do the same.

“When Wandihnu was little, if I was writing she would sit down and pretend to write too,” Elizabeth says. “Her words would be spelt wrong and letters would be backwards, but she knew what she wanted to write.”

Thirteen-year-old Wandihnu is an everyday teenager. She loves soccer, writing poetry and hanging out with her friends.

Wandihnu and the Old Dugong will be launched at Gleebooks, Sydney, on Saturday, 18 August at 2.30pm.

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