THE GLOBAL NOMAD
The legendary Mudrooroo hails from the back of beyond of Western Australia, where the sun bakes the earth red and the flooding rains recede to let the wildflowers bloom briefly. His father died when he was unborn and even the identity of his mother has become in doubt. When questioned about his dubious genealogy, he replies with a smile, “In The Hero With a Thousand Faces, it says that the antecedents of a hero are always in doubt.” He leaves it at that.
From his birth the life of Mudrooroo was unsettled and his mother moved him along the York-Narrogin road until finally settling in Beverley. About this town, he recalls wryly: “No one spoke to us and at school I along with the Aboriginal kids had our own private desk where we sat ignored. I didn’t turn up much.”
After a while the Child Welfare intervened and he was sent south to Perth. Parts of his early life he wrote about in his first novel, Wild Cat Falling. He describes this novel as a deep text dealing not only with the injustices of life, but also with the way Beatniks then in vogue approached jazz and jazz musicians.
After a few years, Mudrooroo availed himself of an offer to be sent to Melbourne. He stayed in that city sampling its Bohemian life, then left for South East Asia and ended up in swinging London. He travelled with his wife Jenny and when she had to return to Melbourne, he went back there, stayed briefly and left for India. He travelled there for five years, three of them as a Buddhist monk, then returned to Australia, Sydney, Melbourne and finally Perth . There he met an American girl Elaine and eventually followed her back to California, San Francisco, where
he prilgrimaged to City Lights Bookshop in North Beach and Haight Ashbury, before hitting the road and hitchhiking up the West Coast to Canada.
Returning to San Francisco, he sampled the culture there, doing Primal Therapy which he found interesting and lived with the Moonies whom he found fascistic. Having overstayed his visa, he left for Australia before being deported, and entered into his Aboriginality. He met Burnam Burnam, the actor and activist, and went with him to Monash University to attend a lecture at the Aboriginal Studies Centre there. He met the director, Colin Bourke and was invited to participate with him in writing a children’s book. The result was Before the Invasion. After this he decided to do an historical novel and settled on Tasmania. The result was his popular, Dr. Wooreddy’s Prescription for Enduring the ending of the World. He made a number of trips to the Island and walked all over it. About this time, he says: “When I was writing Wooreddy, I still considered my ego not large enough to tackle Australia” – which elicits the question: “And now do you consider it large enough?” “After doing my Master of the Ghost Dreaming series, I consider it bigger than Australia, as big as the universe,’ he replies with a grin, which makes one doubt his words until one realises the extent of his travels.
The job ran out and Mudrooroo moved on to Melbourne University where he obtained a scholarship for Indian Studies. At the same time, he became a tutor in Koori Kollej, teaching Aboriginal students. It was then that his literary career began and he, along with the Aboriginal Playwright, Jack Davis and Marlene Chesson formed The Aboriginal Writers, Oral Literature and Dramatists’ Association (AWOLDA).
He organised three conferences and sought to establish the Association on a solid basis, but it was difficult to find willing workers and the Association became extinct. Apart from this failure, he did establish Aboriginal Writings courses at the University of Queensland and Murdoch University. It is from this period that his theoretical works date.
He obtained a five year contract to teach at Murdoch Unversity which he describes as a writing grant. He used his time at the University to good effect and produced his seminal work, Us Mob which summed up his approach to Aboriginality as well as his disappointment in the Aboriginal movement. Rash words often produce rash results and this happened in Mudrooroo’s case when he was asked to prove his Aboriginality. He took this as a personal insult at the time and retorted,
“Am I to write a fictional life story as other’s have done to prove who I am. I never knew my father and even my mother is in doubt. So just see me as a mongrel and forget any other labels.”
Although he was getting on in age, Mudrooroo left Western Australia and moved to Queensland. He lived on an island off the Queensland coast away from all strife. There he finished his mythic early history of the southern coast of Australia, and then wrote two novels set in Queensland, which had fascinated him since the time of the Bjelke-Petersen Government and his writing of The Kwinkan set in that era. Mudrooroo’s detractors still continued to pester him and he decided to leave Australia.
He returned to India, to Dharamsala in the foothills of the Himalayas which is the capital of the Free Tibetans. He met the Dalai Lama there and received initiations from him. After Dharamsala, he penetrated deeper into the mountains and reached the valley of Katmandu. Further North in the shadow of Everest, he met his heart’s companion, Sangita, and now they have a son, Saman. Both husband and wife are avid nomads and they hope to soon travel to the axis munda of the earth, Mount Kailash. Until then, he is writing his autobiography, Not My Place? or contemplating it when he is looking after his son.
Mudrooroo April 2003