Singing the Coast
Margaret Somerville and Tony Perkins, Aboriginal Studies Press
This is a quite extraordinary book. It understands that stories sustain life and identity, and that such stories need to be told and listened to (or the story is silenced). It seeks to record Tony’s substantial body of cultural knowledge, held in a body of oral stories, in written form.
Thus it seeks to move from oral story to written word and deal with all the issues of translation and the politics of representation that involves. It seeks to preserve some of the hidden stories — both past and present — of the Gumbaynggir peoples who live around Coff’s Harbour and to name their life since white settlement.
It names massacre, and how people tell that story and live this side of it. It is a story told not to create guilt but to have the story recognised. It is the story of amazing cultural adaption.
This is a story of movement from the old stories written on bodies, to a time when no stories could be told for fear and shame, to this time when stories can again be told. It is not always an easy book to read; it needs to be read slowly and listened to carefully. But for those who wish to know this land and its people, it is an effort worth making.