Water in a Dry Land: Place Learning Through Art and Story

Thinking Through Country

#Map 3: A Mud Map of Country


U’Alayi researcher Chrissiejoy Marshall came to me as a doctoral student and struggled against academic knowledge. Challenged to invent her own language, she developed her methodology in a combination of visual, oral and written forms, moving between them to articulate meanings that were not possible in writing alone. She assembled the methodology as a DVD from which a series of short segments are presented below. When we developed this methodology together as the basis for our work about water, we called it  Thinking through country'. My response in asking, how can a white settler woman think through country, is inserted below in dialogue with Chrissiejjoy, who asked to be called by her Aboriginal name Immiboagurramillbun in the context of her traditional knowledge.

 

 

Introduction to thinking through country, the particular material country of Terewah, the Narran Lake.

 

 

 

In writing from these images held in the body I return to the foot, apple-belly, plum-baby, and forest moon walk to explore a methodology of thinking through country. I write them in response to Chrissiejoy’s being, knowing and doing in her country of the Narran Lake. I write them as a white immigrant settler woman with no place I can call my country.

 

 

'Country', conceptual framework 

 

 

Feet. I massage feet. I listen, the torn foot, the patching of the torn foot, the torn finger, the knife, the stitching. The feel of the foot as a map of country. What is unrepresentable is the space in between. The abyss.

 

'Me, myself and I', ontology

 

 

Body/place memories are particular. The farmhouse with its double gable, timber walls, built lightly on the land. The apple with its moon-roundedness hangs in the orchard that the soldier settlers planted, now almost obsolete, not picked, left for us, for me with my round belly. The round belly of my third baby, a baby who was so loved.

 

 'Reading country', epistemology

 

 

Walking along the rail trail find red seedling plums, small, mottled red and yellow. In the kitchen each day the miracle of plum colour unfolds. Plums change from red-tinged-green to bright red to maroon to almost black, the darkest maroon I have ever seen. How is it, I wonder, that colour is produced and changes so day by day? What does it mean to eat colour?

 

 

'Finding and knowing place of oneself and others in country', methodology

 

 

Chrissiejoy says this is a practical methodology, a methodology of practice. I wonder what is my practice of country here now, in this other place? My first response is a story about lemons. Walking to collect lemons from Jes’s place and letting my response in lemons flow through my body in images. They are images of all the lemons in all of their places and all the lemon stories. Bright gold of lemons on dark green trees in a cold, grey winter. A map of country through lemons.