Voice, Suppression & Imagination

Contemporary Indigenous Writing from Australia

Report on Bangalore Literature Festival Session, Day 1, Friday 26 Sept 2014

by Nupur Sachdev

Can you Deny this Sunrise? – Dalit Writing and Issues of Marginalization

Dylan Coleman, Jeanine Leane, Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy & Sharankumar Limbale | Mini Krishnan (M)

There are millions and billions of stories to be told, and in the maelstrom of identities and thoughts, finding your voice is the most liberating thing you can do to your writing.

Indigenous novelist Dylan Coleman started off the panel discussion with her extremely forthright perception of the Indigenous identity. She said, “Being aboriginal is not about the color of our skin. We see our identity as a socially constructed one.”

She spoke at length about the “Stolen Generations” of the Aboriginal people, explaining how the governing bodies decided that people of Indigenous descent needed to be protected. “This was a very paternalistic point of view, the thought that we would die out as a race”, she said. People were segregated, they were rounded up and taken out of the country, uprooted from their land and forced onto reservations. They were expected to blend in, assimilate as part of the larger white population.

“Despite generations of trauma, our writing is about liberation”, she commented, and explained the importance of the “Dreaming Story” in Indigenous culture.

Being of Rembarranga, Tiwi and Chinese descent, novelist Marie Munkara thinks of herself as a writer first and then an Indigenous person. “I do have both indigenous and non-indigenous content in my books. It’s not something that has a focus for me, but it is a part of my writing.”

She suffered first-hand as a child taken away from her mother. “However, I got a fantastic education, which I have put to use in my writing and saying what I need to say.” She does not want to be bitter about her life, and says “Although I do know the injustice that was done to my mother, I can see the advantage in what has happened.” Which is why she infuses humor into her book and makes it easier for the audience to perceive her life as an Indigenous person.

This report was originally published on the 29 September 2014 on the Bangalore Literary Festival website