Bill Neidjie, as told to Mark Lang
Recognising that he was the last remaining speaker of Gagudju language, Neidjie broke with tradition and committed his knowledge to print. In Old Man’s story he has recorded aspects of his life for a younger generation, to help them look after their country and remember its stories — and for balanda, non-Aboriginal people.
This beautifully nuanced, impressionistic account allows Neidjie to gently emphasise the issues of importance to him. This personal inflection is complemented by Lang’s beautiful landscape photos. Structured in the cycle of the seasons, Old Man’s story provides readers with insights into the annual transformations of landscape that are so integral to Neidjie’s life story.
Old Man’s story contains stories of living on country and Neidjie’s passion for the land shows through. He emphasises the significance of traditional practices, hoping that his culture will flourish and be passed on. Old Man’s story is a powerful contribution to the history of northern Australia told by an iconic figure.
Bill Neidjie is perhaps best known for being central to the establishment of the world-heritage listed Kakadu National Park: now a resource for all. Old Man’s story is his third book. For thirty-five years Mark Lang has used his panoramic camera to record the varied extremes across Australia. On his travels he met Big Bill Neidjie. For over two years Mark worked with Old Man Bill, recording his story and photographing his country. This book is the result. Further pictures: www.marklangscapes.com
There are many great Australians, past and present who have shaped our views of Australia. But for me, the voice of Old Man remains the most insightful and dignified measure of what makes the land so vital. He understood what country means and how important it is to sustain our tradition. Big Bill spoke for the Earth. Ma, Bor Bor. — Senator Nova Peris OAM
Mark Lang’s vital record of Big Bill Neidjie’s wisdom is Australian gold. Old Man’s story is a challenge to every Australian wanting to get closer to the almost-lost ancient spirit of this land. I have read no more powerful document on the inseparability of Earth and us human beings. — Bob Brown
Between these covers — profoundly beautiful images, words and ideals. — Phillip Adams