Pitjantjatjara-speaking youngsters to Open The Bible

Illustrated Bible set to capture the imaginations and hearts of children in central Australia. 

 Nami Kulyuru told people how she’d always dreamed of creating a children’s Bible with stories told through paintings. 

An artist and long-serving Bible translator, Nami longed to pass these stories on to her children and grandchildren using traditional artwork. 

While she didn’t live to see it, Nami’s dream is coming to fruition with ‘Godaku Tjukurpa’ (the illustrated Pitjantjatjara children’s Bible) nearing completion.  

Nami’s vision 

For many years, Nami faithfully served on the original Pitjantjatjara Bible Translation Project, including helping translate the book of Habakkuk just months before she passed away, which has been completed and awaiting publication. 

But beyond words, Nami longed to tell the stories she loved through symbols and imagery — in the style her People were familiar with. She knew this visual storytelling would particularly captivate children.  

Nami saw the value in the illustrated Bibles sold in Christian bookstores. But she wanted one that would speak to the hearts of children in her community. 

She told fellow translator, Dave Barnett, how Pitjantjatjara people can tell a whole story on a single canvas. One artwork can depict the entirety of a narrative — all the important locations, as well as the order of the events. 

In contrast, Nami noticed that English children’s Bibles depicted only a single scene per illustration. This makes it impossible to tell the story to a child if you only had access to one picture.  

 “Those children’s Bibles, they have really nice pictures,” she told Dave. “But they’re different from the way we tell stories with our paintings. I wonder if we could make a Bible for our children that tells the stories in the way Anangu do their paintings?” 

Her dream becomes reality 

Even before the children’s illustrated Bible project began, Nami’s health was rapidly declining. She was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor and not given long to live. 

But her burning desire to see God’s word come to future generations of Anangu children couldn’t be quenched.  

Nami devoted her remaining strength to painting Bible stories on canvas. She took up her brush and started painting In the beginning – God’s creation of the world by His Word. It is one of several of Nami’s paintings to be included in the upcoming publication. 

Sadly Nami passed away in 2022. But other Christian Anangu translators who are talented artists heeded the call. They were committed to see her vision come to fruition and to honour her legacy for the next generation.  

Nami’s vision of 50 paintings has taken 3 years to come to pass. The project she led commenced in August 2021 with 48 paintings now finished and the final 2 in the works. 

Stories told in ‘Godaku Tjukurpa’ include: 

  • The creation story 
  • Abraham offering Isaac on Mount Moriah 
  • Joseph and the betrayal of his brothers 
  • God the Father offering his Son on the cross at Calvary 
  • The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. 

Artist: Nami Kulyuru
Scripture Reference: Genesis 1

Artist: Renita Stanley
Scripture Reference: Genesis 22

Artist: Josephine James
Scripture Reference: Genesis 37

Artist: Makinti Minutjukur
Scripture Reference: Acts 2

Artist: Barbara Baker
Scripture Reference: John 19

Watch more of Nami’s story

 Bible Society translator, Dave Barnett, tells how Pitjantjatjara society was traditionally an oral culture. Customs, laws and tales, and location maps were passed down from older people telling stories to their children and grandchildren.  

 It makes sense that Bible stories should be shared the same way. 

‘Godaku Tjukurpa’ will have a far-reaching and long-lasting impact on generations of Pitjantjatjara people. Currently 3,000-5000 Pitjantjatjara speakers live on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (AYP) Lands. Many more live in regional centres including Ceduna, Port Augusta and Alice Springs.  

 Because of Nami’s faith-filled vision, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be able to visualise the stories she imagined as a child. They’ll see the stories she heard told by her parents and grandparents around the fire.  

 Will you heed Nami’s call? 

The aim is to launch ‘Godaku Tjukurpa’ by early 2025, distribute it to Pitjantjatjara speakers, and many in the Indigenous Australian community. But Nami’s team can’t do it without your help.   

Please give today to support the distribution of this important Bible resource and many more Bible engagement resources designed by and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  

Bible Society Australia endeavours to work with other language groups to help develop resources that not only share the Gospel but also speak to their culture.

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