LIMINAL X Centre for Stories—Editorial
by Robert Wood
We wish to celebrate the traditional owners, the Whadjuk Noongar people, where this month of Liminal was made. We thank them for their guidance in caring for country, in welcoming us here, and for allowing us to collaborate on a better tomorrow. I particularly want to acknowledge local Elder Barry McGuire who has long supported The Centre for Stories. And, for readers interested in Whadjuk Noongar culture and community, I suggest you listen to the weekly radio show ‘Moorditj Mag’ from Jim Morrison and Nick Abraham on RTR FM.
To recognise Whadjuk sovereignty through an act of solidarity, I also want to share the story of my ancestral home in India. This is where my family had always been before my grandparents left around Independence from British colonial rule in 1947. This is a place called Putucurichy in the present day state of Kerala. The language group we belong to is Malayalam. It is a fairly young language at around 1500 years old, but it comes from a mixture of Tamil, Adivasi tribes, and the language of birds, all of which have longer lineages. Malayalam’s current form owes much to the 16th century poet Thunchathtu Ezhuthachan. In Kerala, there are also traces of Portuguese then Dutch then English from the successive waves of failed colonial projects.
As for the land itself, we say it came out of the sea. This was in mythic times when kings gave cows to poets for speaking to the cosmos on their behalf. One day, the king tried to take a cow back from a poet. The poet’s son, a warrior, rose up, and, killed the king in revenge. This warrior, whose name was Parasurama, kept killing until he had killed five generations of royals, which created five lakes of blood. In remorse, he went to the mountains, and, threw his bloodstained axe into the ocean. The ocean withdrew in horror and returned his axe to him, and, that was how the coastline of Kerala was born. This is where we come from, the land that is Parasurama’s axe. I am proud of that place, and, I am also thankful that I was born in Perth and live on Whadjuk country with the ongoing custodianship by Noongar people.
As for the land itself, we say it came out of the sea.
Many Asian-Australians carry this or similar knowledge with us. And so, while we are guests here, we can participate in the fields of politics, identity, and culture from different perspectives that are all too often unheard. That is why I share this origin story of my country. It is in myths of country that we can find an understanding of traditions that truly sustain us beyond the false consciousness of our contemporary age. As for Liminal and The Centre for Stories, after talking for almost two years, Leah and I thought it about time we should collaborate. The Centre for Stories and the local community have led this, and, it allows us to recognise diverse voices from our city of Perth. Liminal gave us an opportunity to speak of our place in the world; and, to continue recognising the good work of fellow Asian-Australians.
Our interviewees have shared how they connect to this place and each other; to the boodjar; to Whadjuk, para-colonial, and multicultural traditions; to Western Australia as the state capital; to the Indian Ocean region with neighbours in Singapore, Jakarta, Cape Town, Chennai, and Kuala Lumpur; to the suburbs that sit inside; and always with histories and identities that are being made and re-made. This was about approaching our place in a way that was as rich as our lived experiences, and, to reflect on Perth as having a culture all of its own.
This was about approaching our place in a way that was as rich as our lived experiences, and, to reflect on Perth as having a culture all of its own.
To do this, we have spoken with writers, poets, athletes, producers, and photographers, from Vietnamese, Japanese, Indian, Pakistani, Burmese, Malaysian, Singaporean, and Chinese backgrounds. Their identities are ones that matter to our collective wellbeing. Recognising our identities also means knowing that they are only one thread among many, that they are grounded in the realities of myths from other countries. Together, we are made up of more stories and more possibilities and more ways of living than we ever knew before. And so, like this place and this month of Liminal, we each contain multitudes. These multitudes do not rest in unity, but keep searching for paradoxes that tie us together, like twins, from West Coast to East Coast, from port cities both, from places of hope. We know our selves as old and arriving, static and becoming, as prophetic poets and novices of language, all at once. This is about what we might become if we share in our enlightened true selves as Asian-Australians and beyond. This is the lived polytheism of our daily reality.
Together, we speak of Perth in its wondrous complexity, in the shifting sands of time, and in partnership with the other communities that also belong here. This is through a shared lifestyle on the beach, river, hills; in the suburbs, country, city; in the public spaces with our brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings working together, all at once. That is the skeleton, architecture, and postcode of this month of Liminal and The Centre for Stories. Our audience will make of that what they will, but we want you to know that it comes from a rigor, respect, openness, balance, and possibility. Happy reading to all of you, and, come visit us in Perth and at The Centre for Stories too.