Dennis, the grandson of Clarice Malinda Lougher, the last practising matriarch of the Gai-mariagal clan, was immersed in cultural knowledge and lore from an early age. Through his eyes we see a Sydney of totemic landscapes resonating with ceremonial sites and ancestral activity, song-lines and walking tracks, habitat caves and middens, and share memories of what has been lost.
At Narrabeen camp in the 1950s we meet Uncle Willie de Serve, a man who wore the scarifications of his ritual life and mentored the young Dennis. 'His face was alive with a thousand stories.'
Dennis also introduces us to Nanna Watson, who lived in a little humpy at Car-rang gel (North Head). 'On a hot summer's afternoon, she would hitch her dress up round her knees and wriggle around in the sand to get a couple of ugaries (pipis), chew one up and spit it into the water and put the other one on the line, and before you knew it she'd have a big whiting or a bream.'
Through the stories so generously told we may reflect on what it means to be a stolen child and one of the 'silent generations', and to fight to safeguard culture and identity. We can sense the responsibility of being the senior Gai-mariagal and the last of the storytellers, and the urgency to document and share the knowledge bestowed on him by generations of his family.
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