Returning to Memory Cove. [abstract].

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Manthorpe, Peter
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In 2000 I was lucky enough to have been taken in tow by Wik elder Silas Wolmby for a walk around his country near Cape Keerweer on the Cape York Peninsula. I realised that if I was to be able to reach a deep understanding of Silas’s stories, of which I had heard only a tiny part of his repertoire, I would have to spend a lifetime with him. Similarly, to comprehend the Cape Keerweer landscape to the point where I could glide through it, completely at home like Silas, I would have to spend a lifetime there. There is a man whose stories I have been hearing all my life, who has shared his life’s traditions with me, who has schooled me in his sense of the landscape of our home territory, coastal South Australia, and taught me since childhood about his way of moving through it and perceiving it. My father is a seafarer, a navigator, by profession, and I followed in his wake. We are both master mariners. But long before I left home and went to sea he would take me sailing around the gulfs in his small wooden yacht. In this paper I will return to Cape Catastrophe in a boat with my father and hear him tell the story to me again. I will compare this experience with walking beside Silas and hearing his stories. There are similarities and obvious divergences, but reflecting on each casts new light on the other. As I hear this familiar story once again after so many iterations, I will examine the ways it connects me to the landscape, whether it influences my sense of ‘home’ (being in South Australia, or in southern Australia, or perhaps simply being in a boat girt by sea), and how it influences my understanding of my culture: as an Australian, as a whitefella, as an invader, as a seafarer, as a son.
research, Peter Manthorpe