Pomleh - to make, call into creation  give life

The image below is the boya or stone gift given by Professor Collard at the beginning of the project to encourage and wish us well on the journey of discovery.

Giving a boya is a Nyoongar diplomatic gesture to confirm good will and cultural engagement. It is an important cultural diplomacy in the old and new world between Aboriginal people who are creating a relationship so each can work and move on and across country without interference. It also is an invitation to visit the country of the visitors at some future time.  

In 1832 Walker and Backhouse visited “The Lagoons” on Flinders Island where the Aboriginal Tasmanians collected by Robinson were held captive before being moved to the Wybalenna settlement.

G.W. Walker obtained the word pomleh on 15 October 1832 and recorded it in his journal. On this date, several of the Aboriginal people at the Lagoons establishment were “invited” into the hut of the settlement’s Commandant so Walker could obtain samples of vocabulary from them.

He provides a short list of the names for several objects and then goes on to say (p. 263) that “Some have a very indefinite and extended meaning … .” One is pomleh, he says this word is used in a variety of ways but “particularly where art, or ingenuity, or an exertion of power is applied to the production of anything.”

“Everything that has required any sort of manipulations has been pomeleh, ie., made, or put together, or called into existence.”

We have adopted this word for this project as it brings together some important conceptual oppositions, and is very layered in its meanings. For instance, it refers at the same time to an action (the making of something) and to a quality or attribute that things can have as a result of being made (“has been pomleh”).

It joins process and outcome, origin and state of being, into one—representing them as a seamless whole. The term represents a very profound way of seeing and knowing the world. It encapsulates a whole philosophy and worldview—an entire ontology, cosmology and epistemology—in a single word.