What do Aboriginal storytellers bring to crime fiction?
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English literacy was imposed upon Aboriginal people by the settlers in the exercise of their superior power, in an attempt to ‘civilise’ and assimilate Aboriginal people. But such was the foresight and resourcefulness of early Aboriginal writers, that they transformed the written word into a medium through which they spoke truth to power. In the ensuing centuries Aboriginal people transformed the written word by imbuing the page with their worldviews, experiential knowledge and politics. This doctor of creative arts thesis examines how contemporary Aboriginal writers are drawing upon their unique literary heritage in order to re-create crime fiction. Aboriginal crime writers are transforming the genre through two tropes – reclaiming Country and characters who bring Aboriginal voice and experience to the centre of the narrative. In Aboriginal crime fiction, the land is a character that has agency in the story and wears the wounds of its people. In spite of colonisation, the bonds between the protagonist and the land remain strong. The latter trope resounds in characters that privilege Aboriginal histories, worldviews and celebrate the resilience of black communities. Both tropes find reflection in the novel that forms part of this doctor of creative arts thesis, Black Rose Private Detective Agency. The novel revolves around the journey of Aunty June Clarkson, a Murri Aunty who becomes a private detective. Aunty June draws upon her culture, experiential knowledge, wit and steely determination in order to solve crime. The Murri grapevine is one of her many tools, as is her invisibility as an Aboriginal woman. It is from behind the masks of demeaning stereotypes that Aunty June finds clues, pursues witnesses and delivers justice to villains.
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