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Wandering with Intent, Essays

by Kim Mahood

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Kim Mahood is one of our most interesting thinkers about the interface between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia. Writing my review of her previous book Position Doubtful (2016) coincided with attending the Indigenous Language Intensive program organised by Writers Victoria, which was designed to guide non-indigenous authors to write respectfully about Indigenous people, their culture and history. Kim Mahood has made it her life’s work to do just that.

As she says in the preface to Wandering with Intent:
To essay means to try, to endeavour, to attempt. It implies risk and failure. It is also the only way to find out whether something is possible. These essays are a sort of written equivalent of hunting and gathering, of wandering with intent. They are the product of my own wandering among the conundrums and contradictions of the cross-cultural world I've chosen to inhabit, and of my intent to understand and honour it. (p.xi)
In today's cultural climate of identity politics and cancel culture, it takes courage to traverse this territory. For some, there are hard and fast lines that delineate who has the right to speak and write about Indigenous issues, and as we are already seeing in the context of the forthcoming referendum on the Voice, there are differing perspectives and disconcerting hostilities between First Nations themselves. So what is it that impels Mahood to venture into this complex territory?
What compels me is watching relationships play out at the edge of cultural systems that baffle and subvert each other, where the frontier is still adaptive and resistant, the population is predominantly Aboriginal, and the land is a living entity that influences the lives of the human players. It is a dynamic and volatile world that has been impacted by colonialism but has retained its Indigenous character, much of which is interpreted by the white world as dysfunctional, but which continues to function with remarkable tenacity. I've spend years seeing the Indigenous people I know grow and change, take on responsibilities or avoid them, make choices about how to be the Indigenous player on someone else's agenda. (p.xiii)
This collection of 17 essays written over more than 15 years includes nine which were previously published... in Griffith Reviews 15, 36 and 63; (reissued in The Best Australian Essays 2007); The Monthly in 2015, 2017 and 2019; the Chicago Quarterly Review 2020, and in the Australian Book Review 2019. Since I don't subscribe to any of these, I have missed out on every one of these remarkable essays so I was very pleased to see them published together in this must-have collection.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2022/12/12/wandering-with-intent-by-kim-mahood/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Dec 12, 2022 |
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