Elena Govor, My Dark Brother, Sydney, 2000

 

 


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In the country of the Rainbow Serpent

[Excerpt]

 

We were standing on top of Lamins Hill. The mist was so thick that we could not see further than a couple of metres. I went a few steps away from the car and the mist enveloped me. Now nothing reminded me about my own time and space. This pervasive mist made commonsense vacillate. The world which, I was sure, did not exist any longer, was here. I could see it more and more clearly through the melting and gliding mist. Below the hill the dark-green waves of dense rainforest appeared. It was permeated with myriad raindrops sparkling in the sun, with anxious voices of unknown birds. This was ancient Ngadjon country. A gust of wind brought a song, sad and monotonous, and when the last waves of the mist had lifted I saw the singers. Their dark faces with half-closed eyes were turned to the slope of Bartle Frere and I heard Jessie Calicoís voice.

     ĎDO YOU SEE A BIG GREEN PATCH OVER THERE? TREES NEVER GROW AROUND IT, itís always green, just grass. Thatís our sacred place up there. Thatís where all our people will go, up to that mountain. That is our spiritual burial-ground, where our spirits go. When our people used to die, sometimes you might have heard the older people talking about them, that they donít lie to rest, they just walked around, people have seen them. And then the older people used to sing the spirit and send it back up to there to the mountain and the spirit would not come back any more, it lie at rest.í

     Floraís voice could be heard now, its placid tones blending in with the song: ĎMy spirit will go up there too one dayí.1 The mourning song raised and filled all the space; there was no place for my time in it, no place for us. The dead were burying their dead ...

     The mist had lifted indeed. An emerald, grassy country lay below Lamins Hill. The rainforest was no longer there, revealing all the secret folds and waves of the outraged, naked land. Within the life-span of one generation tea plantations and grazing pastures have destroyed the ancient land inhabited by Ngadjon people for millennia, have ousted the mythological landscape created by Ngadjon spiritual ancestors. Jessie was the last link with them, the last who was still able to see this sacred landscape beneath the modern scene that lay in front us...