Singing the Coast: Masks, Mists, Mirrors, Maps

  • This is a reflection or meditation on Singing the Coast, rather than a review as such. It grew out of a short review I wrote for the Townsville Bulletin at the time of publication. I may have submitted it to an academic journal (I can’t even remember whether it got that far) but really, I wrote it for myself as a way of trying to make sense of a very strange piece of story-telling. I have posted it here on Words & Images because it connects with concerns about indigenous history and heritage in The European colonisation of Australia. A word of warning: it’s long.

Singing the Coast
Margaret Somerville and Tony Perkins
Aboriginal Studies Press, $34.95
May 2010

Singing the Coast attempts to preserve a specific Aboriginal vision and share it with white society. One of its two authors, Margaret Somerville, is Professor of Education at Melbourne’s Monash University, while the other, Tony Perkins, is identified as a ‘cultural knowledge holder and member of the Garbi Elders of Corindi Beach’. With the help of Tony’s fellow Elders, they present essential elements of Gumbaynggirr culture through stories passed down in aboriginal families on the coast between Nambucca Heads (NSW) and Yamba, stories which relate the patterns of their daily lives and weave them into the timeless presence of the country.

Continue reading “Singing the Coast: Masks, Mists, Mirrors, Maps”

The European colonisation of Australia

This post continues a sequence that began on Green Path with Where did we come from? and People in Australia before Europeans arrived. Those two, covering the evolution of Homo sapiens from ape-like ancestors to the beginnings of modern history, fitted well enough in an environmental blog. This one, continuing the Australian story from 1788, is primarily social and political history. As such, it is a better fit here on Words & Images.

Much of the “new” history is disturbing but, as Alex Miller’s Landscape of Farewell tells us, we have to come to terms with it so that we can move out from beneath its shadow.     Continue reading “The European colonisation of Australia”

Garner and Rovelli

covers of Rovelli and Garner booksOne of the lovely things about the first few weeks after Christmas, at least in my corner of the world, is having lots of new books to read. This year was a little different, however, because I found myself with an odd pair of books, loving both of them but unable to read either of them straight through.

There are places…

The yellow one is nonfiction. Rovelli is a theoretical physicist working on loop quantum gravity. The fact that a physicist could publish a book – any book – with such a title attracted me to him, and to it, immediately.

There Are Places turned out to be a collection of his newspaper articles, three to six pages each, on science, history, philosophy, religion and politics. Every single one was a pleasure to read – calm, lucid and enlightening – but I couldn’t read the book straight through. Continue reading “Garner and Rovelli”

Pataki vs Religion

Against Religion

Tamas Pataki

Scribe (2007)

Tamas Pataki could be accused of misleading advertising. His title should have been Against Christianity or Against Monotheism. And his cover image, with its implicit hard-science associations, is misleading too, because he argues against religion primarily on the basis of Freudian theory.

To be fair, Pataki does warn the reader in his introduction that he is going to focus on the monotheistic religions. Christianity (the religion of about 33% of the world’s population) is his main target, while Islam (20%) and Judaism (a mere 0.2%) are often caught in his field of fire but less often singled out. He barely mentions Hinduism (13%) or Buddhism (6%), and in fact his prime argument applies to them poorly or not at all. Continue reading “Pataki vs Religion”

Terry Lane: God – the interview

Godd Interview coverGod: the interview

Terry Lane

ABC Books, second edition, 2004

Terry Lane prefaces his book with a warning and a plea, and it is only fair to repeat them here: the contents of his book, and therefore of my review, may disturb those who are content with their deeply held Christianity. That was not his wish, nor is it mine, and we would ask such people not to continue.

Lane is widely known in Australia as a radio interviewer for the ABC. When asked casually whom he would most like to interview, he said, ‘God.’ The idea took root and this book grew from it.

Continue reading “Terry Lane: God – the interview”