The Desert is a Map

“The Land is a map” is the title of the first chapter of Roslynn Doris Haynes’ book Seeking the Centre in which she describes how Australian aboriginal culture, spirituality, and indeed life itself are firmly rooted in the sand of the desert. The chapter (and the book) include a number of interesting poems from both Western and indigenous origins. One of them, written by the much-celebrated aboriginal poet and playwright Jack Davis, I found of particular interest as a straightforward critique of the (perhaps post-colonial) idea and concept of the desert as supposedly monotonous and undifferentiated.

Some call it desert

But is full of life

pulsating life

if one knows where to find it

in the land I love

(Jack Davis in Roslynn Doris Haynes’ Seeking the Centre: The Australian Desert in Literature, Art and Film, 1998)