Academic journal article Text Matters

"Taste Good Iny?": Images of and from Australian Indigenous Literature

Academic journal article Text Matters

"Taste Good Iny?": Images of and from Australian Indigenous Literature

Article excerpt

Jared Thomas Speaks with Teresa Podemska-Abt

TPA: Hi Jared, thanks for dedicat- ing this time.

JT: Not at all, a pleasure.

TPA: Tell me, have you ever met a Polish person?

JT: I've had the pleasure of meet- ing a few Polish people and each and every one of them is very impressive.

TPA: Would you tell me about your "meeting" with Polish culture, per- haps you have read some Polish lit- erature?

JT: My engagement with Polish people and culture is minimal in comparison with my interaction with people of other cultures but very positive. I first became aware of the plight of Polish immigrants and their culture through a friend- ship with young Australian Polish theatre director Magdalena Grub- ski. Stories of Magdalena's parents' immigration to Australia and their efforts to carve out a positive life for their family in the face of ad- versity are remarkable. Magdalena's parents' key concern when arriving to Australia was ensuring that their children become very skilled Eng- lish communicators. Subsequently Magdalena is today a significant creative and cultural producer liv- ing and working in Tasmania. Most recent engagement with Polish peo- ple and culture is that of working with Australian Polish students. Similarly, stories of their parents' immigration to Australia are fasci- nating and reveal much accomplish- ment. I enjoy speaking with these students about how they continue to practise Polish culture and how they envisage maintaining cultural practice into the future. In terms of Polish literature and culture, I am aware of its wealth and I hope to, one day, experience it.

TPA: What is your definition of lit- erature, especially Aboriginal litera- ture?

JT: I grew up in a very working class family with both parents being of Aboriginal ancestry. My maternal grandfather Jim Fitzpatrick was Aboriginal Irish and until his grand- parents landed in Australia and de- manded that my great grandfather leave my great grandmother due to her Aboriginality, my grandfa- ther experienced a privileged west- ern education. He embedded in me a respect for the power of language, articulation, story and reading while many of the people I grew up with in the working class town of Port Augusta didn't seem to care much for these things. Due to this, I have always been interested in stories that transcend class and culture, and therefore I value not only the writ- ten word as a form of literature but oral stories. My paternal great uncles have been recorded singing stories that continue for weeks, as the sto- ries told of land and legends between the expanses of the Southern and Northern poles of Australia.

In regard to a definition of Abo- riginal Australian literature, it is sto- ries written and told by Aboriginal people and stories that discuss any aspect of Aboriginal life, culture and imaginings. In fact, Dreaming stories are still the most important stories told by Aboriginal people because they impart so much valu- able knowledge about the land and our culture. I love reading works of fiction where the writers incorpo- rate elements of Dreaming stories, place names and culture. Many fic- tion writers such as Kim Scott, Ter- ri Janke, Tarrissa Behrendt and of course Alexis Wright are doing this so effectively. Wright's writing is in- fused with cultural knowledge and all narrative is framed by a world in which dreaming continues rather than being portrayed as a thing of the past.

TPA: Where do you think runs the borderline between Australian and Aboriginal literatures, if there is any?

JT: The writings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are distinctly different to those authored by non-Indigenous au- thors because they draw on lived experience as Aboriginal and Tor- res Strait Islander people. There are many non-Indigenous writers that include Aboriginal characters and issues in their work but with- out being Aboriginal or a Torres Strait Islander I think it impos- sible to truly convey the voice of Indigenous people. …

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