From Kath Walker to Oodgeroo Noonuccal? : Ambiguity and Assurance in My People


My copy of My People—a 1986 reprint—has a photograph of Kath Walker on the cover. She sits on a rock at the edge of a pool looking thoughtfully past the fixed frame of the photograph. Her figure is mirrored in the water. She evidently poses for the camera and allows it to capture a neat, placid and harmonious image of a Europeanised Aboriginal woman in nature. And yet, at a second glance the look in her eyes may be full of restrained patience rather than calmness; of quiet, pondering the next move, rather than ease. In contemporary Australia Aboriginal politics have evolved in many ways around the crucial symbolic act of naming, and in the bicentennial year of 1988 Kath Walker made the very determined move of changing her name to Oodgeroo Noonuccal as both a rejection of Europeanisation and an assertion of cultural self hood. Her new name identified her with paperbark, her functional dreaming as chronicler of her people's stories.

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Published 1 November 1994 in Oodgeroo: a tribute. Subjects: Aboriginal literature - Portrayal of White culture, Aboriginal poetry, Aboriginal women writers, Oodgeroo Noonuccal.

Cite as: Knudsen, Eva Rask. ‘From Kath Walker to Oodgeroo Noonuccal? : Ambiguity and Assurance in My People.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 16, no. 4, 1994, doi: 10.20314/als.087d68e01c.