Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Review: JINDAH MURRAY WIND DANCER
Jindah Murray Wind Dancer
Fiona Wirrer-George Oochunyung
OUP 2011 64pp $12.95
‘Identity is identity, no matter what your background.’
Focusing on expressing Aboriginal identity in 21st century ways, the forth title on the theme of identity in the Yarning Strong series is Jindah Murray Wind Dancer. Penned by performer, writer and teacher Fiona Wirrer-George Ooochunyung, the story weaves the themes of self-discovery, valuing family and the merits of hard work and determination into a teenage life set Brisbane, and is told through the voice of 13 year old Jindah.
Jindah likes going to the Murri School, she regards the wind as her invisible friend (and later finds out it’s her totem), and she really, really, really loves to dance. She wants to dance on stage ‘like a brolga bird, straight strong back, nice pointy feet, kick my legs high, turn like a spinning top…’ and in her ‘dream magic place’ her body can do anything. When Jindah gets the chance to dance at school she sets herself a standard – ‘to try to be deadly or not at all.’
Jindah’s story includes her single-parent home and the strained relationship between her parents, but fortunately it doesn’t impact on her relationship with her father and the lessons he can teach her about her own history and cultural heritage.
As Jindah learns in simple terms, so does the reader, about aspects of culture like totems, and the consequences of a history where Aboriginal people were moved onto missions and reserves and denied the right to practice culture, including dance. A lesson in the fusion of traditional and contemporary forms of dance is then offered.
Within the text there are references to ‘nations of peoples’ and ‘Country’, and hopefully young readers in upper primary will be able to decipher the meaning of both through the text.
Like other titles in the Yarning Strong series, there’s a love interest, Jindah’s is Yarrin Creek who makes her tummy jump and knees weak. Adults will remember what that’s like, young readers will appreciate knowing that its a completely normal experience of growing up, regardless of cultural background. Mind you, I can’t recall wanting to kiss someone at the age of 13. Perhaps I was a slow learner!
The author, Fiona Wirrer-George Oocunyung http://www.speakers-ink.com.au/speakers/428-fiona-wirrer-george was born on Thursday Island and currently lives in Brisbane. Her previous titles include: Whispers of this Wik Woman and On Country.