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Lost in translation

by
August 2005, no. 273

Balanda: My year in Arnhem Land by Mary Ellen Jordan

Allen & Unwin, $24.95 pb, 240 pp

Lost in translation

by
August 2005, no. 273

The first time Mary Ellen Jordan’s name appeared in ABR (June 2001), it was followed by a brief, heated exchange. Bruce Pascoe responded to her ‘Letter from Maningrida’ mixing accusations of betrayal with a series of familiar analogies, in a stern warning that this kind of fearless journalism was not wanted. Melissa Mackey moved to Jordan’s defence. She had read courage, not fearless journalism, and, in open frustration, ended her reply by simply asking: ‘then what can we say?’ I read Balanda: My Year in Arnhem Land as part answer, part re-examination of that question.

The opening lines guide our entry to Maningrida. Here, ‘beyond the town, past the fire tower’, the Aboriginal world begins – here tarmac, Centrelink and corrugated iron meet ceremony, the Dreaming and hunting. We step awkwardly onto the land of the Dkurridji; it is a place where familiarities are blurred with differences, differences blurred with familiarities. In Maningrida, ‘language and culture are transformed, reinterpreted – it’s a place where everything is changing shape’.

Travis Cutler reviews ‘Balanda: My year in Arnhem land’ by Mary Ellen Jordan

Balanda: My year in Arnhem Land

by Mary Ellen Jordan

Allen & Unwin, $24.95 pb, 240 pp

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