Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Position Doubtful: Mapping Landscapes and Memories, by Kim Mahood

Staff review by Chris Saliba

Artist and writer Kim Mahood gives readers an authentic and compelling portrait of Aborginal Australia today.

Kim Mahood is an artist and writer. She grew up on her family’s cattle station in Tanami Downs, a desert area 650 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs. The family eventually sold the cattle station, but ever since Mahood has felt the strong pull of the land. Over the years she has been returning to Tanami Downs, working as a volunteer amongst several Aboriginal communities and finding inspiration for her art works. It’s not only the land that Mahood finds compelling, but she also has strong relationships with the local Indigenous population, especially the elder Aboriginal women.

One of the central themes of Position Doubtful is a mapping project Mahood performed in collaboration with the Indigenous people of Tanami Downs. The maps were large canvases that Mahood painted, recording dreaming tracks, place names and culturally significant information. Mahood’s idea was to try and merge two ways of seeing the land, Western and Indigenous. It was also a way for Indigenous people to recover a sense of ownership.

The most rewarding aspect of the book is how Mahood describes the complexity of the interaction between white and black culture. There is unflinching detail of poor Aboriginal health, infighting, disadvantage and general cultural and psychological dislocation. It raises the question of how Aboriginal people are to carve out a meaningful place for themselves in a country where their history has been one of dispossession. Mahood is also honest about her own shortcomings when it comes to working with Aboriginal people, confessing to her impatience and exasperation.

This is a must read for anyone who wants a faithful portrait of Aboriginal Australia today, as lived out in remote communities. Although it’s subject matter is quite different to Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man, Position Doubtful has much in common with that extraordinary book, most notably its descriptions of remote Aboriginal communities.

A series of heartfelt postcards from the Australia’s central heart.

Position Doubtful: Mapping Landscapes and Memories, by Kim Mahood. Published by Scribe. ISBN: 9781925321685  RRP: $29.99

(Release date 15th August.)

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