Josephine Taylor reviews 'The Bauhinia Tree' by Kankawa Nagarra Olive Knight

Kankawa Nagarra Olive Knight is a leader in the Wangkatjungka community, south-east of Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley. For The Bauhinia Tree, her eventful seventy-year life story was recorded by Terri-ann White, then 'transcribed and refined' by White and Kankawa Knight. While the material has been edited to remove hesitations and interventions, the oral quality has been retained. The conversational style is intimate and engaging; the cumulative effect is of a generous, pragmatic woman.

The Bauhinia Tree tells of the threat to Kankawa Knight's life at birth – this was because her father was 'half-caste' – her upbringing among the Gooniyandi and Walmatjarri peoples, and her education in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal traditions and languages. Her strong Christian faith is described, as is the concern with country and the rights of its people. These two passions inform important elements of the book: trainings in community health, and in translating and interpreting; activism in the areas of substance abuse and foetal alcohol spectrum disorder; and a burgeoning career as a gospel blues singer.

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Published in March 2016, no. 379

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