Position Doubtful: Mapping Landscapes and Memories by Kim Mahood

Position Doubtful: Mapping Landscapes and Memories by Kim Mahood

Author:Kim Mahood [Mahood, Kim]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs, Social Science, Indigenous Studies, Nature, General, Human Geography, History, Historical Geography, Art, Science, Earth Sciences, Geography, BIO026000, SOC062000, NAT000000, SOC015000, HIS052000
ISBN: 9781925321685
Google: xlN8DAAAQBAJ
Amazon: 1925321681
Publisher: Scribe US
Published: 2016-08-14T14:00:00+00:00

Only Margaret can follow the story, but Pam, Jess, and I are enthralled by the rhythms and gestures of the old woman’s delivery, her hands speaking with as much authority as her voice. And there are words we all recognise — kakarra, karlarra, kulirra, kayili — east, west, south, north. These are the cardinal directions, the words for which are consistent across the languages spoken in the region because all the stories for this country involve travelling.

Early in the morning we came out and lined up.

There were two old women, a visit.

He came out now, the young man.

They brought the young man to us

and there they initiated him.

When that was finished we went,

we stopped at Wara for vegetable food.

We stopped and camped and slept. Then we went back.

‘Policeman there!’

The policeman came up to us.

‘Stop! Hold the dogs!’

He shot at them.

He tied up the man. My brother.

Then we went a long way south to Mount River,

and at Mount River we lost the old woman.

We went up and down through the hills to Tarrku,

to Mount River, to Kampiny, to Kiliki, inside.

‘A group of armed men are coming!’

A group of men came from Balgo, from the east

and at sunrise they fought.

We stayed there and waited for the bullock meat.

Then we went west.

A long way north we ate and slept, at Pijan-pijan.

Then we went to Jupkarra,

to Kunyarrjarra, to Linji,

from Linji west, to Gordon Downs.

At Linji a man came with a horse, just one.

‘He’s going to speak to us!’

‘What for you coming?’


‘Might be trouble.’

‘Let’s go north.

A long way north.’

She talks for almost an hour, until her voice rasps to a standstill.

—Did you hear all that before? Pam asks Margaret.

—Nothing, she says.


It is common now to treat the journey as a metaphor, but there was a time when the journey and the traveller and the story were the same thing. Just as the journey and the ground it traversed were the same, so too was the person who made the journey and described it. Place lodged in the body, as essential to its proper functioning as the circulation of the blood and the apprehension of thoughts. There was a time when we walked into consciousness through our journeys, when our awareness was brand-new, so that the shape and texture and sound and smell of the journey remained in us, a real and vivid part of our substance.

Maybe it was this that forced a burgeoning in language. Maybe the small human ancestor, the one whose descendants found their way out of Africa, maybe that little brain grew to the task of naming all it saw, describing all it experienced, on her way into destiny. Maybe this is how language began, as a journey and a poem.


It’s been some time since Margaret has been back to her mother’s country, and she’s itching to burn the areas where the buck spinifex and turpentine wattle has taken over.

—You tell Jim we gotta clean this country, she tells me, and I pass on the message.

Jim looks dubious. The last time the traditional owners cleaned the country, the only thing left standing was the anthills.


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