One of the last tweets I remember before boarding my flight to Australia was about ‘being so over platform talk.’ I might have clicked ‘favorite.’ Then I powered down my phone for the long, long flight.
Bronze skinned women paraded like monks up to the front of the auditorium. They walked with measured steps, one limping and leaning on her friends. Standing on the raised stage in front of us, they looked up and then away, a few dodging the lights behind the soft shoulders of their sisters. I could tell some of the women were unaccustomed to this unabashed attention – and uneasy.
Seldom do Aboriginal women take center stage, even in their homeland.
But this evening they stood awash in bright lights, their burnished features shining despite their awkwardness. One woman of great stature, though quite short, spoke of indigenous communities forgotten and hurting. In slow, deliberate words she described the local languishing of her people. She testified to seasons of struggle and hinted at the sad handiwork of neglect. While her shoulders curved forward, she came across straight and proud.
With the gentleness of a tribal elder, she ushered the women to the microphone one at a time. We’d wait as each came forward. They spoke, these women who bore the marks of long-suffering and love. One said her piece then stood, eyes closed and smiling, as if sunbathing. No one rushed these moments. Halting yet harmonious, they were strung together allowing each face to be seen, each voice heard. It wasn’t so much the stories, for they were disjointed and unpracticed. But the collective witness of these women to another world we often miss, to truths we seldom apprehend, captivated me.
The communicator within kept wishing they offered a more cohesive telling, making the most of this moment in the spotlight. I longed for more wisdom to pour forth (because you could see the mantle resting heavy on the older women, in particular). I wanted them to educate me in more linear modalities. And I didn’t want their presence to be wasted on us or among us.
And yet – this is what I remember of my weekend in Australia…