June 2019

Why I Read Blak – Sei Kosugi

In the latest installment in our series, Associate Professor Sei Kosugi considers the global reach of Australia’s Indigenous storytellers. 

I teach Pacific literature in Japan. One of the texts which I like to read in my class is Stolen by Jane Harrison. It is a short play with a sense of silence between the speeches. Students are required to use their insight and imagination to grasp what is happening on the stage and to the characters. Though it is a compact play, it presents the most tragic aspects of the history of ‘Stolen Children’ (such as Ruby’s descent into madness and Jimmy’s suicide) with minimum words, inducing a deep emotional response in readers/ the audience. The play also gives a sense of strength and resilience (as we can see it in Sandy’s storytelling) to survive those tragedies.

I also like how Alexis Wright describes the landscape and people in her novels of epic /mystic grandeur such as Carpentaria and The Swan Book. Her imagination, though deeply rooted in her traditional land of Northern Queensland and its heritage, sometimes crosses the boundary of nations and ethnicities. The landscape of the legendary serpent of Carpentaria is overlapped with another archaic landscape in Asia in my mind and in The Swan Book, the swan also creates an extensive imaginative space among continents and islands. These novels also appeal to readers who face natural disasters and live under the danger of nuclear pollution.

Recently I had a chance to see some of the performances of ILBIJERRI (JACK CHARLES V THE CROWNBEAUTIFUL ONE DAY, and FOLEY) through Ilbijerri’s educational resources. Their unique ways of interrogating social issues in a space of theatre is very impressive. I’m interested in the notion of FOLEY’s style of ‘lecture theatre’, and how it explores a new potentiality of the educational aspects of theatre.

Sei Kosugi is an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Language and Culture, Osaka University, Japan.