Firstly, I would like to pay respect to my Torres Strait Islander ancestors, elders past and present, on this significant day in our history, Zulai Wan (July 1) otherwise known as the “Coming of the Light”.
It has been approximately 143 years (July 1871) since my ancestor Dabad, an Erub warrior clan elder welcomed the London Missionary Society clergy and teachers at Kemus on Darnley Island (Erub).
The actions of Dabad cannot be under stated as he directly defied tribal law in letting the clergyman land and interact with the community.
What motivated Dabad to let the foreigners set foot on his island instead of having them for kaikai (food)? I ponder over this question from time to time and I am of the opinion the decision was for his people. Whatever his motives the acceptance of Christianity into Torres Strait led to profound changes that affected every aspect of ailan life, culture and lore.
If it was not for Dabad I would not be sharing this blog. My great, great, great Athe (Grandfather) Sela was one of the South Sea Islander evangelist/teachers from Lifou Island, New Caledonia who accompanied Reverend Samuel MacFarlane to Erub. My Athe never returned home and settled on Erub with my equally as great Akka (Grandmother) Gemai, a local ailan omun (island woman). They had many children who had children and you know how the story goes.
What does today mean to me? I revel in the community coming together to celebrate the “Coming of the Light”. I note the keepers of our lore and elders who are no longer with us. But, most importantly I think about the Torres Strait Islander leaders who thought outside the box for the betterment of their people – Dabad the Erub warrior clan elder and Eddie Koiki Mabo the Gardener. Sometimes, one has to think outside the box for change to occur.
Until next blog, the journey continues……