I bought Us Mob because its subtitle was intriguing: “History, Culture, Struggle: An Introduction to Indigenous Australia”. This book, I thought, is the long looked for alternative to all those other books introducing to Aboriginal culture, but written by white authors.
The contents further strengthens this promise. 13 ‘lectures’ about obvious topics like spirituality, education, health or history, but also covering Indigeniality, family and “seeing and reading” their culture. In each chapter, Mudrooroo cites other sources and provides links to further reading.
When I started reading Us Mob I was struggling with the style of Mudrooroo for most of the book. He writes about “us mob” when he addresses Indigenous people and “the Master” when he speaks of white people. I found this polarisation hard to accept, it sounded wrong and from the 17th century. To understand we have to know that Mudrooroo was for many years an activist for the Indigenous people. While his own Aboriginality was disputed, he lectured and wrote about Aboriginal culture for many years.
Some chapters contain real eye-openers. For example, in “The Master’s Law” he explains that Aboriginal myths often encode their law and while the narrative told through white eyes often focuses on how animals get markings, Aboriginal people are much more interested in what these markings encode.
Other chapters have disappointed me. In “Our Struggle for Our Lands” he more or less just quotes a document by Marcia Langton, adding his comments. But the most important event of the Aboriginal struggle for land, the lengendary Mabo decision, is not explained at all. (Eddie Mabo, an Aboriginal man from the Torres Strait Islands, challenged the Australian courts and achieved that the concept of ‘terra nullius’ was overturned.)
If one remembers the viewpoint from which the book has been written - the incriminating angle of an activist for Aboriginal rights - it proves to be a valuable resource, the complement to all those other books by white authors. It is not a silent teacher though, it shakes, kicks and sometimes angrily shouts. A true activist’s book.
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