A new voice uses Indigenous Knowledge to bring enlightenment and balance.
Sand Talk, a highly original new book by poet, artist and academic Tyson Yunkaporta, presents Indigenous Knowledge as a way of solving our many contemporary ills. Modern life is out of balance and causing harm. There are problems everywhere – from how the economy is run, prioritising growth that is really a form of death to the environment, to poor personal and spiritual health. Society is based around hierarchical relationships, rather than interdependence and shared knowledge. Our narcissism makes us believe we are better than and superior to each other. The ego constantly gets in the way of clear thinking, obscuring the path to true knowledge.
Tyson Yunkaporta was born in Melbourne and raised in rural Queensland, living with about a dozen different Indigenous communities during his youth. As a young man in Cape York he was adopted by Dad Kenlock and Mum Hersie, and subsequently travelled around Australia, working with Indigenous groups and gaining a wealth of traditional knowledge. It is these years spent learning from Elders and knowledge keepers that Yunkaporta brings to Sand Talk. It is a book that has clearly spent many years in the making, a work that is the result of years of deep thought and meditation. On every page Yunkaporta strives for simplicity and truth, as revealed to him by his experiences travelling all over Australia.
Sand Talk is hard to categorise. It reads as a mix of philosophy, self-help and spiritual text. Yunkaporta has a keen analytical mind. There are many passages of surprising clarity. The author is quick to cut through modern received wisdom to expose the lie at the centre of it. For example, in a chapter discussing violence he says our clean, technological, peaceful cities outsource their violence to other places and peoples. “You carry the pillaged metals in your phone from devastated African lands and communities. Your notions of peaceful settlement and development are delusions peppered with bullet holes and spears.” Another chapter discusses the origins of modern education as a way of ensuring obedience and conformity, with an impressive use of history to make the point. The book is full of such radical examples, showing how Western civilisation uses artifice and polished rhetoric to conceal its darker side.
Written in a simple, clear language, yet demanding concentration and commitment, Sand Talk is like nothing you've read before.
Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Change the World, by Tyson Yunkaporta. Published by Text. $32.99
Review by Chris Saliba
North Melbourne Books