GIMME THAT OLD STORY RELIGION
As part of the Wheeler Centre Gala Storytelling night to raise money for the Indigenous Literary Fund in 2012, Kaz joined other writers to speak on the theme of beliefs. Here’s what she wrote to read out on the night:
When my daughter was 10, I asked her “You know how Santa Claus comes to kids, but not to adults – when do you think Santa will stop visiting you?” My daughter sighed, and said, “Oh, probably when you stop lying through your teeth”.
The thing is, I like believing in Santa. I want to believe ALL the religious stories I hear.
25 years ago in Central Arnhem Land I met an Aboriginal artist, Paddy Wainbarunga. Mr Wainbaranga used to tell a story about “old” Captain Cook” from “a million years ago”. Captain Cook was a good man who came from the north – Mosquito Island in Papua New Guinea. He brought useful things to share, like knives and calico.
He lived with his two wives on Sydney Harbour and built canoes and paddles. After that, Satan arrived, and he fought with Captain Cook. Captain Cook won, and threw the Devil’s body down a hole. And that hole is a tunnel now that cars go through. That is a good story.
Mormons believe there are multiple worlds and multiple heavens. I like that story, too.
A couple of years ago a few of us here with the Indigenous Literacy Foundation were visiting kids in a remote Northern Territory school. There was a new teacher at the school (there’s always a new teacher) who asked a teachers aide, a local Jawoyn lady, to tell the assembled visitors a little something of the frog dreaming story “Don’t be shy, come on,”. The teacher was probably expecting a sweet bedtime story about frogs.
The young woman looked surprised. Really?, she seemed to ask. She looked at an older Jawoyn lady, who nodded. Okay then. The teacher’s aide then firmly warned us all – children and visitors alike –if anybody went to the swamp area site of the frog dreaming, we would definitely get pregnant.
The teacher looked like she might faint dead away. I thought she was going to say – “ooh no, that can’t be right … what happens is, a pigeon comes down and talks in a virgin’s ear and then a bit later she gives birth to the son of God . ..” But it wasn’t a Catholic school.
The Yarralin community elder and original Wave Hill striker, the splendidly named Hobbles Dunayurri, once told anthropologists HIS version of the Captain Cook story. Ned Kelly joined with Aboriginal people to defend the country against the Captain Cook-led invasion. In his story, it’s Captain Cook who’s the devil.
Mr Dunayurri, who was fluent in five languages, turned up one Sunday to take on the Pentacostal missionaries who kept bothering the Yarralin community despite being told to leave many times. He brought with him a long butcher’s knife and a copy of the Bible. He slashed and chopped up the Bible, shouting, `Strike me dead, God, if this is your book, strike me dead!’ He was not struck down.
He also announced to us whitefellas, “We’re not trying to push you back to London and big England, but what’s your feeling? You the one been making lot of mistake, but we can be join in, white, and black, and yellow. This a big country, and we been mix em up . (He meant, there’s room for everybody). We’re on this land now. We can be friendly, join in, be friends, mates, together.”
So if you ask me, thanks to Hobbles Dunayarri, that’s the big picture sorted.
So tonight I’m just going to tell you about a little belief of mine.
I’m about the same age as Elle MacPherson but for all our similarities I may as well be an otter. Should I try to look more like Elle? No, for yea verily, this will just make me look like otter dressed as lamb. Given the choice of doing nothing or cosmetic surgery, we’re all going to have to choose between looking old and looking weird. Our faces will wrinkle and go south, or we’ll end up looking like the Joker from Batman.
So I choose old. I don’t want to wake up in 20 years with a head like a peeled boiled egg and lips like two bursty raw pork sausages. Instead, I intend to let nature take its course. I believe this means that soon I will look like a cross between Mother Theresa, Cousin It, and a random scrotum.
I urge you to join me.