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Delicious descriptions from Down Under: Kim Scott on confronting the new

July 29, 2011
Banksia

Candlestick-shaped flowers aka Banksia

Here is the first of two or more (depending on how the spirit moves me) Delicious Descriptions from Kim Scott‘s book That deadman dance.

My first one presents two excerpts which describe people confronting the new. First, the British settlers during their expedition to find land:

They found a path, rocky and scattered with fine pebbles that at one point wound through dense, low vegetation but mostly led them through what, Chaine said, seemed a gnarled and spiky forest. Leaves were like needles, or small saws. Candlestick-shaped flowers blossomed, or were dry and wooden. Tiny flowers clung to trees by thin tendrils, and wound their way through the shrubbery, along clefts in rock. Bark hung in long strips. Flowering spears thrust upward from the centre of shimmering fountains of green which, on closer inspection, bristled with spikes.

Modern-day Aussies would recognise most if not all of these plants, but I can imagine how strange they would have been to people who came from the soft landscapes of England and Ireland.

By contrast, here is Wunyeran describing his experience on a ship to an elder:

It was hard to describe the food, he said. Some of them had tasted it before on ships, but other tastes too and … all very strange. There were many things … He tried to explain the tube you looked through that brought you close; the scratched markings one of the men made on something like leaves. Book, Journal, they said.

They gave him a good koitj, he said, and showed his people the smooth axe…

Throughout the book we to and fro between the British and indigenous ways of doing, being and seeing … but I particularly loved these two concrete descriptions of people reacting to new sights and experiences.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2011 2:49 am

    Wonderful descriptions! Especially like the first one with its contrasts between upright and trailing, shimmering and spiky.

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