Ali Cobby Eckermann

She had to suffer and survive a long painful journey, for the privilege to stand proud and tell people who her family was, and where they come from. The changes this brought to her life made it all worthwhile. Memories began to heal, and fade away like unimportant dreams. Or do they?

She has one friend who tells everybody “I knew her when she was white.” (lots of smiles and laughter). She don’t care; he’s her friend and he has proven that over many years. But it upsets other friends of hers. “Why do you let him say that?” She don’t care; just get me another drink (sic). She was always a bigger drinker when she was ‘white’; than now. Funny ini! Or is it?

She buys a house in Alice Springs. It’s close to the Gap. For the first three months or so, she sees two Wandjinas on the loungeroom wall. They don’t move much; always standing there handsome side by side. Sometimes they shone. She wondered if she was meant to paint them (she is a visual artist). She decided not to, and eventually they went away. Crazy eh!  Or is she?

In the short Indigenous film titled ‘Who Paintin’ Dis Wandjina?’ it tells of an unnamed artist who began graffitting the images around Perth, and the different views on the issue.  He spent some time up north as a child, and remembered the artwork.  He felt inspired later in life to paint these images in the city.  He did not seek any permission from traditional people, as he thought he was promoting Aboriginal culture in a positive way. He did paint beautifully. Or did he?

A friend of hers shared his views on the subject. He said the artist was a ‘racist’. Or is he?

A:Nah I’m not! I went to all the Apologies and marches and agreed with everything that was said!  I’m not racist!

B:Oh you’re one of those dinky di Aussies! And I’ve got to sit here, and not get angry or mad about it? Do you know how hard that is?

O:f course we do mate!  Or do we?

Customs

I

Travelling back from overseas
the old shepherd placed his bag
on the security carousel.
It bleated.

African employees began to sway
sing songs from their villages
embarrassed airport security rushed
charging them with sedition.

Breathless the old shepherd
charged with sentiment
was escorted from the building
by ASIO men in dark glasses.

II

On his first visit back
to the local supermarket
the old shepherd collapsed
in the tinned vegie aisle.

His bag slid against
the meat fridge
lamb department.

No ambulance was called.

III

After work the Sudanese
pray talk quietly
cooking hot kifto
sosaties and meali.

Living in the darkest corner
of the modern mud brick dwelling
their blind grandmother
asked after the shepherd.

Redundant family wage earners
fell to their knees
begging forgiveness for
retrieving the  bag.

When the bag was opened
in the glimmer of no globes
imported cigarettes lay stacked
alongside a rejected pacemaker.

© Ali Cobby Eckermann

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