In 1893, a group of Australians set sail for Paraguay, where they sought to establish a utopian colony. Despite a generous land grant, the colony failed and was eventually abandoned. One problem is that it practiced a ‘white man’ socialism and tried to keep a distance from the local Indigenous Guarani. This isolated the colony from potential help.
While most returned to Australia, some remained. The next generation included Léon Cadogan, who became friendly with local Guaraní while playing in the bush as a child. As a young man, he championed the rights of the Guaraní against quite brutal treatment – they were only recognised as human beings in 1957. In 1949, Cadogan was made the first Curator of Indians for the Department of Guairá. During this time, he collected their rich mythology and eventually published a translation into Spanish of their classic genesis tale, ayvu rapytá.
Avyu rapytá is a wondrous story of creation that ranks alongside Popol Vuh as a one of the world’s great cultural expressions of the mystery of life’s origins. In this tale, the Great Father, ñanderuvusú, founds human language with a fragment of divinity, conceiving a sacred chant even before he created the earth itself. Very much around the origins of language, the story involves the quest for ayvu porä, the beautiful words of the gods. Creatures of nature, such as the humming-bird and owl are granted special powers. And echoing the Semitic genesis story, there is a primeval flood from which a new world emerges.
Despite the value of this story, Cadogan’s current translation of ayvu rapytá is quite difficult to find. More amazingly, it has never been translated into English. Léon Cadogan’s legacy is currently being continued by two of his sons. In Paraguay, Rogelio is carrying on the Léon Cadogan Foundation, protecting Indigenous rights. And in Australia, Léon (Jimmy) is publishing books about his own family and childhood in Paraguay.
The current project entails translating ayvu rapytá into English and producing a tri-lingual edition, in Guaraní, Spanish and English. There are a number of benefits to such a venture:
- A unique contribution to the corpus of world creation stories
- Making good what was a sad episode in Australian history
- Focusing research into Guaraní culture
- Bringing in Guaraní voices about the current state of their culture
Currently we are seeking interest from the following partners:
- Translation services specialising in Guaraní language
- Publishers with a focus on world literature
- Anthropologists working in Guaraní creation myths
- Organisations seeking to promote the interests of Indigenous peoples