Women and the Land

The following was written in 1998 as part of university studies and served as the text for a video as well as a directional arrow for the reading, series of performances, and analysis which comprised my thesis, Centre of the Storm. 

Written spontaneously in response to artwork by I. Kindness (Mat meets gloss.  PCL Exhibitionists, Sydney, 1998) [1], the poem was driven by years of questioning my ancestral story in the context of the colonisation of Australia and the impact this had on the First Peoples.  Details of this process can be found in the thesis Introduction, especially the sections Less Than Half the Story and Performance as Religious Expression and Political Action.

Introduction and Contents

WOMEN AND THE LAND (filmed on Gadigal and Dharug land)

(All photos are of A. Maie and artwork by I. Kindness)

 


Women and the Land

Women on the Land

Women in the Land

 

Tread softly dear heart

Each step a mark.....an imprint

 

Know where you step

Be sure how and where you go

 

How to be sure?

How to know?

 

Time...too much...too little...

Shhhoo.....shhhooo.....shhhooo.....

 

I must...I need...

It is important....

 

I’m sorry I don’t have time right now....

Where did that time go?...Its gone already...I don’t believe it...What happened?....I’ve missed it!  What did you say?  Sometimes I feel I don’t even have time to breathe.

 

How can I hold...hold on to it?

 


I am a displaced woman

Living in a strange land,

            not mine by right

But claimed by my recent past

 

My people came from the North

What is it about the North that gives “right of possession?”

The right to see a land

            and a people

                        and say

                                    and feel

that it is O.K. to take possession

That we are more civilised

            and will benefit those already on that land

That we will bring a better morality

            a better understanding of life

            a better experience of life

That we have the answers.

 

The vanity.....the foolishness.....

 

Yet we bring in all the trappings of an alien life

            and suffocate what is already there

                        alien food

                        alien clothes

                        alien morality

                        alien spirituality

                        alien lifestyle

Nothing...not one thing

            interacts

 

So we fight...and fight...

            to survive

Fight the land

            Fight the people of the land

We do not listen

            We do not see

            We do not respond

until we have created a space...an environment

            that is our own

Then and only then do we feel

            a sense of place

 

But it is an alien place in this land

It sits on top...

                        over...

covering...

            hiding...

                        ignoring...

                                    all that is here

All that makes this land itself.

 

And what of our spirituality?

Those religions which came with us from the North?

            from elsewhere?

They also sit on top

            uneasy in their new location

Imposing their rituals

            their beliefs

            their festivals

            their seasons

on a place that does not connect...communicate

 


Their place...their heart...

             like the people who worship them

                        is not here.

It is in another land

where their people make pilgrimage

            away...

                        always away...

                                    never here...

                                                never here

 

How then can we aliens feel a sense of place

            of belonging

            of home

            of spiritual home

when we ignore and are ignorant of all that is here...

            that was here from the beginning?

 

Can we recover what was lost...

            connect with what was ignored...

                        or is it already too late

                                    too late to make a beginning

                                                to take the first step

                                                            to take time to make the first step?

 

Women and the Land

Women on the Land

Women in the Land

 


Tread softly dear heart

Each step a mark.....an imprint

 

Know where you step

Be sure how and where you go


Be sure...secure...

            listen...

                        feel...

                                    breathe...






© A. Maie, 1998


[1] Irene Kindness is a visual artist who has worked and exhibited internationally.
 


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