What do the artistic works of acclaimed author Tim Winton and eminent Ngarinyin lawman Bungal (David ) Mowaljarlai have in common?
According to Hannah Rachel Bell they both reflect sacred relationship with the natural world, the biological imperative of a male rite of passage, an emergent urban tribalism, and the fundamental role of story in the transmission of cultural knowledge.
In Bell's four decade friendship with Mowaljarlai, she had to confront the cultural assumptions that sculpted her way of seeing. The journey was life-changing.
When she returned to teaching in 2001 Tim Winton's novels featured in the curriculum. She recognised an eerie familiarity and thought Winton must have been influenced by traditional elders to express such an 'Indigenous' perspective.
She wrote to him. This resulted in four years of correspondence and an excavation of converging world views culminating in Storymen.
Storymen combines ancient Indigenous knowledge and wisdom, and postmodern literary fiction. It contains personal memoir, letters, conversations and never-before-seen Indigenous art accompanied by stories in Mowaljarlai's own words.
Publisher verified Hannah's workIn the wake of Marlo Morgan's disaster, Cambridge University Press sent their publishing manager to the Kimberley with Hannah for ten days to ensure the veracity of her claims to relationship with the Ngarinyin.
They spent a week in the bush with her Ngarinyin friends and 'family', allaying all their doubts.