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Points of View: Australian art conversation

Emily Kam Kngwarray
Anwerlarr anganenty (Big yam Dreaming) 1995

Ellen van Neerven, an Indigenous writer based in Brisbane, wrote these poems in response to Emily Kam Kngwarray’s Anwerlarr Anganenty (Big yam Dreaming) 1995 and read them at the Points of View: Australian art conversation on Kngwarray’s Big Yam Dreaming at NGV on Wednesday, 9 July 2014. See video recording below.

Van Neerven is the editor of Writing Black: New Indigenous Writing from Australia. Last year she won the David Unaipon Award for unpublished Indigenous writing and her debut novel Heat And Light will be published in September. 

Whole Lot

Family, earth. Dingo, eagle. Fire, food.

Whole lot. It’s all of those things.

What we eat comes from our roots

If we stop sharing there will be nothing

We start with black

Let it get hold of you

Look at the stars

Or are you afraid to?

The day shows

Country spread open

A map of all that was and will be

Don’t forget it

I’m tracing it to remember

Don’t be scared

We are not here until we sit here

We sit in silence and we are open

There’s different kinds of time

I hope you’ll understand

Sing it

I want this to be here

When I leave again

I’ve been leaving a lot of times

But it doesn’t mean I want to

There is no easy way to cry

Tell them I’ll be back soon

When I come back and sit here

I want to still see mibun

Powering through the sky

Let me tell you with my skin

Under the earth we will find

Whole lot. It’s all of those things.


Her mother has just died

But she has bunya nuts

A shopping bag full

And she gives them to me

I fill of bowl of nuts

To take with me upstairs

Mostly to keep my hands busy

Peeling back my nerves

I’ve been finding it hard

To move through

And when you’re scared

You’re not very generous

She held my shoulder

When I spoke too fast

Wanting no-one to hear me

In the surf

To know and to watch her

Is to want to be brave

She crashed next to me

And split us fruit

She will wear any T-shirt

Black and blackfella

Put it on her

And take it to the streets

Those West End bars

With their pool tables

A Lemon, lime and bitters

And a good bloody cry


Fingers find finger limes

In my country

We travel to the forest

The morning after rain

My fingers have been cold

In the mornings

We cross the coloured creek

Along a patient log

We walk towards frog calls

We walk away from winter

I want to stop on the way back

Get some finger limes

I’ve been homesick for them

But when we return

They are gone

My fingers have been numb

We go home anyway

And you make dinner

I’m sorry if I’m crying

I haven’t had anyone cook me a meal

It’s been a while, you know?

Something in me’s woken up

And I can see the pictures in my head

We talk about what we would

And what we wouldn’t eat

To stay who we are

For love

My fingers know more

Than I can fit into thought

Memory is the last defence we have

To cold fingers