Grace Karskens - Nah Doongh’s Song - Monday 9th September

In conversation with Mark McKenna

Grace Karskens is the winner of the thirteenth Calibre Essay Prize, Australia's most prestigious essay prize, for her essay 'Nah Doongh’s Song'. The distinguished Australian historian receives $5,000. The judges – J.M. Coetzee, Anna Funder, and Australian Book Review Editor Peter Rose – chose 'Nah Doongh's Song' from a field of over 450 essays submitted from 22 countries. Karskens’ essay – about a remarkable nineteenth-century Aboriginal woman – will appear in ABR's Indigenous issue in August.

From the essay:
'In old age, Nah Doongh missed her own family. "All my folks are dead," she told the Shands sadly, "Mudder, Fadder, everybody dead, all but myself." They probably heard her words complacently, nodding at yet more evidence of the "dying race". Yet for Nah Doongh it was surely not about "the race" but her own family and band. She yearned for long-lost parents and brothers.'

'I want to acknowledge the limits of biography and geobiography, of what we can know about people so utterly erased from mainstream history. At every turn, evidence is profoundly mediated by happenstance, by vast silences, by loss. Human figures are indistinct, like shapes deep underwater; tiny clues flicker, their significance magnified by the unknown. So this story of Nah Doongh is bookended with what I call ‘ghost biography’.

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Date and time: Monday 9th September, 6pm for 6.30pm

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