This book is packed solidly with observations, stories about people and place and descriptions of art practice. The descriptions of landscape are powerful, informed by a sensitivity for colour, light and shape. For me, the strongest feature of the book is the relationship between people and place; the effect of place on people and their culture and the impact of people on place. For the traditional people of the Tanimi, place is part of them just as they are part of the place; for the outsiders who regularly come and go the place inhabits them but also challenges.
This book is interesting at so many levels, a European Australian with close connections to the land joining with the traditional owners of country to map the country from their perspective as well. Its a race against time to capture the knowledge of the older custodians with one saying she's not frightened of dying, but 'there's too many things I know that we didn't write down yet'.
Mahood is an artist, but she's also extremely practical, pragmatic and clear-eyed. She doesn't sugar-coat the realities of 21st century life in aborginal desert townships in any way and she's honest in acknowledging some cultural gaps that can't be bridged. She longs to attain the same connection to country and year after year she returns to explore it through her own art, her collaborations with local artists, her visits to her family's old property and her campouts.
This book is not just beautifully written, it's technically masterful. The only reason I've dropped a star is that the publisher of the paperback edition didn't do the illustrations justice. I would have liked to have seen a colour section with all the wonderful maps and art.
A recent trip I did across the Tanami Desert on the Tanami Track was the prelude to reading this book about a non-indigenous woman, Kim Mahood, who grew up in that region. She writes as one who has spent the time that it requires to be accepted into the culture of the aboriginal people who have lived in that region for tens of thousands of years. My main point of dissatisfaction with the book (Scribe Publications, 2016) is that the pictures that are included are black and white only, and in most cases too small to convey much information at all. Mahood provides many insights into not only the beauty and the harshness of the desert country (the cattle station where she spent her early years was called "Mongrel Downs"), but also the richness (and the often misunderstood logic) of aboriginal culture. I recommend the book to anyone interested in the Australian Outback and/or aboriginal culture.
This is a beautifully written, thought-provoking book. Mahood talks about her deep connection to country in the Tanami desert region of Australia, and in doing so interrogates questions of art, friendship, and loss. Her relationships with the traditional owners of the land, and the insights that follow, are fascinating. One of the best books I've read.