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L'Assimilation Non Translation of Oodgeroo Noonuccal's Assimilation No by T Wignesan
L'Assimilation – Non! Translation of Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s “Assimilation – No !” by T. Wignesan Born Kathleen Jean Mary RUSKA on November 3, 1920, in the North Stradbroke Island, off Queensland, she was deemed as an aboriginal (poor whites too were subject to the same fate) - as was the custom during the White Australia Policy days Down Under – fit at 13 to leave primary school to labour as a house-servant, and in 1939, she volunteered to serve out the War in the Women’s Corps. She married Walker, a fellow soldier - who spent his days in detention at Changi Prison in Singapore under the Japanese Regime - and had two sons: Vivian and Denis. After the War, she met and befriended for life her biographer, Kathleen Cochrane, a great solace to her during her “single parent” days. Kath Walker then wrote poetry, essays, stories and articles to highlight the plight of her downtrodden and despised kith and kin, and with the publication of her first book of poems: “Where we going” in 1964 (sold out in three days) achieved national fame, and other collections soon followed in 1966 to the eighties with the backing of the poet and critic, Judith Wright. Soon followed after international acclaim, even a doctoral degree honoris causa. Not just the first aboriginal poet to be published, she became almost instantly the spokesperson for her people all over the Continent, a people until then without a voice: not until 1967 were they even given voting rights, and not until recently has the government even proffered an “apology” for the way aboriginals had been treated for so long. Kath Walker - before her demise in 1993 - then assumed her native name: OODGEROO – “Noonuccal” being the name of her tribe. At the same time, she even chose to wear loose flowing garments as a symbol of her difference and achievement as the champion of the aborigines in Australia, a success story to reinforce the belief in poetry as the most formidable weapon of peaceful change in history. (Oodgeroo was also a competent cricketer, having represented the State of Queensland a couple of times or more, and it only goes to show that having mastered the finest art form of play known to man, versifying or poetising was mere child’s play to her: it goes without saying that good cricketers make for dazzling poets!) Assimilation – Non! Versez votre cruche de vin dans la grande rivière Et où se trouve votre vin ? Il n’y a que de la rivière. Le génie d’une vieille race doit-elle disparaître Afin que la race puisse-t-elle survivre ? Nous qui désirons d’être des égaux de vous, un peuple digne, Nous devrions maintenant nous priver de trop dont nous aimons, Des libertés d’antan pour des nouvelles contraintes, Votre monde en échange pour le nôtre, Mais un noyau restant nous devrions conserver toujours pour nous mêmes. Vous nous faites changer et nous contraindre par la force afin que nous assumons une autre forme, Mais laissez nos racines ancrées profondément dans la terre d’antan. Nous sommes dotés des cœurs et des esprits différents Dans des corps insolites. Ne nous demandez pas D’être des déserters, désavouer non plus nos mères, De changer l’inchangeable. On ne peut pas persuader un gommier de comporter comme un chêne. Quelques choses se perdent, quelque chose est sacrifiée, mais Nous allons continuer d’avancer afin d’apprendre. Ne pas être vaincus et perdus, dilués, mais conservant Notre propre identité, notre fierté raciale. Versez votre cruche de vin dans la grande rivière Et où se trouve votre vin ? Il n’y a que la rivière. © T. Wignesan – Paris, 2016
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