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Personal stories of a Clever Man

Clever Man: The Life of Paddy Compass Namadbara cover

Clever Man: The Life of Paddy Compass Namadbara offers a unique perspective on the life and making of Aboriginal Western Arnhem marrkidjbu (clever man) Paddy Compass Namadbara.

This biography looks at Namadbara's life through the eyes of his Western Arnhem countrymen who witnessed his extraordinary abilities and powers to heal. The biography captures profound stories told by highly respected and revered Aboriginal men he helped: Big Bill Neidjie, Bluey Ilkgirr, Jacob Nayinggul, Jim Wauchope, Johhny Williams Snr, Ron Cooper, Thompson Yuludjiri and others.

 “Some people I know, they’re clever alright. But he bin clever proper!” Bluey Ilkgirr

The book enthrals with its first-hand accounts of Namadbara using his abilities to diagnose illness, bring animals back to life, prophesise the future and other remarkable feats.

By the time of his death in 1987, Namadbara was considered by many as the last of the truly powerful marrkidjbu - a man with magical powers or clever man.

The stories are a powerful and respectful insight into Aboriginal consciousness, set against the encroachment of the Western world. It provides insight into wisdom, guidance and the nurturing leadership Paddy Compass Namadbara provided his community in a time of immense cultural and social change in Australia.

Clever Man: The Life of Paddy Compass Namadbara was compiled by anthropologist and archaeologist Ian White who has worked in the region for many years.

“In these changing times, I’m hoping this account of Namadbara’s life will benefit future West Arnhem generations. His story stands as their inheritance," says Ian White.

Clever Man: The Life of Paddy Compass Namadbara is released by Aboriginal Studies Press – the publishing arm of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).