'Lady Mungo Speaks' by Jeanine Leane | States of Poetry ACT - Series One

For Garry Papin and the Muthi-Muthi People of Lake Mungo

 

Lady Mungo heard the white scientists trampling
on her people's sacredness and she began to surface –
to speak.
While you archaeologists are stomping on
our graves arguing about the depth of your
new Pleistocene layer my people already know
the story that always was.
They stumbled on my head in five hundred
pieces – they said – no bigger than the postage
stamps they placed on the letters they wrote to
their colleagues around the world to
come and see me too!
They spread me out like a jigsaw –
each piece an important part of their
puzzle of landscape and history.
But my people knew the story.
First time I left my Country was
in a suitcase bound for a university to
be studied by the experts.
Why are you still stealing us –
dead and alive?
My people heard me crying across the
miles in that cold collector's box and
told the whitefellas to bring me home.
They said we thought Aboriginal people
would be happy that we are discovering
their past. My people said she's our first
lady and wasn't yours to take.
For over two decades I cried.
When I came back to my Country, my
people came together to see me rest
where I'd always been.
When I heard the white scientists disturbing
my people's graves I rose forty thousand years
to say:
You didn't find me – I came back to tell you
that I didn't come out of Africa!
This is my home, and my people's Country!
We buried our dead in peace and with respect.
I rose to the surface to tell you to
stop desecrating the sacred sites of Australia's
first ladies, our men and our children!
Listen to my children's children and their children
first!

 

Jeanine Leane


Recording

'Lady Mungo Speaks' begins at 1:07

Jeanine Leane

Jeanine Leane

Jeanine Leane is a Wiradjuri scholar from south-west New South Wales. She currently holds a Discovery Indigenous Fellowship at the Australian Centre for Indigenous History, Australian National University. In 2010, after a long career as a secondary and tertiary educator, she completed a doctoral thesis that analysed three iconic settler representations of Aboriginal Australians. Jeanine's first volume of poetry, Dark Secrets After Dreaming: AD 1887–1961 (2010) won the Scanlon Prize for Indigenous Poetry from the Australian Poets' Union. Her manuscript Purple Threads won the David Unaipon Award at the 2010 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards and was shortlisted for the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize and the 2012 Victorian Premier's Award for Indigenous Writing.

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