Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Women and the land: a search for 'home'

The following was written in 1998 as part of university studies and served as the text for the initial performance as well as an arrow for the ensuing series of performances.  Written in response to artwork by I. Kindness (Matt meets gloss. PCL Exhibitionists, Sydney, 1998) the poem was driven by the need to search my ancestral story in context of the colonisation of Australia and the impact that this had on our First Peoples.

Women and the Land
Women on the Land
Women in the Land

Tread softly dear heart
Each step a imprint

Know where you step
Be sure how and where you go

How to be sure?
How to know?

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

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

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 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...
                                    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
                        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 imprint

Know where you step
Be sure how and where you go


c. A. Maie, 1998