Tuesday, September 13, 2011

That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott

Part of coming to a new country, part of reading cultures, is enjoying the literature. That Deadman Dance: A Novel, by Kim Scott, is a fine example of Australian indigenous literature. It tells the story of early encounter between indigenous and coloniser through the eyes of Bobby, a young indigenous man growing up in a rapidly changing world.

It burrows down into the early settler mindset, offering some painfully honest reflection on how they sought to view and control the world. “He ascertained their bearings. Soothed himself, as any observant bystander could see, in the handling of compass and paper. The oilskin wrapping and journal.” The use of maps to control, subjugate, assume ownership. All the time, they are actually helpless, entirely dependent on indigenous wisdom and insight.

Yet over time, that worldview would overpower another, indigenous, worldview. “The old [indigenous] man claimed it was his right, that it was his town! Papa laughed recounting it, said it was true in a way. And it was also true, as [the young indigenous man] apparently claimed (shouted, she’d been told, and slapped the policeman), that the old man had received a ration of flour from previous authorities, and had even been dressed, accommodated and fed at government expense. Why? Because he was the landlord. It might even be true, in a way, but to what use do they put this ownership as against what we have achieved in so short a time?”

And thus different attitudes to land clash. What is fascinating is how the inter-cultural clash is framed. Not by bitterness, although that is deserved. Rather, their is a quiet dignity in the method, (a deep theology of hospitality), spelt out in the appendix-

I wanted to build a story from their confidence, their inclusiveness and sense of play, and their readiness to appropriate new cultural forms—language and songs, guns and boats—as soon as they became available. Believing themselves manifestations of a spirit of place impossible to conquer, they appreciated reciprocity and the nuances of cross-cultural exchange.

Some 200 years later, words well worth pondering – They appreciated reciprocity and the nuances of cross-cultural exchange.

Posted by steve at 09:54 AM

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.