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Gurindji Journey

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This is an unusual book, to read and review. That’s because what might just have been a book about ‘ways of doing’ history is also a cry from the heart for justice for Aboriginal people. Written by a young Japanese scholar who lived among the Gurindji people of Northern Australia for a year, researching and recording their view of history, it has been posthumously published in English, seven year after his sadly early death. Hokari is passionate about many things: cross-cultural analysis, philosophical theory, anthropology, history, but most affectingly, he is passionate about allowing the Aboriginal owners of their land to tell their own stories of their past and present. When an elder questions his fieldwork, asking ‘Why do kartiya (non-Aboriginals) never learn from us? Why do they never listen to our stories?’ we can track our author’s response through the rest of the book. Determined to let their stories speak for themselves, he explores Gurindji ‘ways of telling’, sometimes through scholarly erudition, sometimes through an offbeat, almost poetic sensibility, but always with a heartfelt commitment to the notion that the rest of the world needs to listen and to understand. Accompanied by some interesting photographs, some personal testimonies, and some useful indexes and bibliography, this is a highly idiosyncratic, but compelling, read. David Gaunt is co-owner of Gleebooks in Sydney

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