By Jennifer Ann Davies, NCWQ Arts and Letters Adviser

It was in the midst of “Mrs Wiggins Wartymelons” and the pandemic…

…just as Ralphie the adopted goat was pruning the rose bushes,

the whisper first announced itself…. gently…………..

“The DARKNESS never lasts…”

Thusly, we square our shoulders, compose ourselves, hold our heads high – and proceed. ‘Mrs Wiggins’ is set in Korweinguboora.  It is a REAL place! Australia’s Glenda MILLARD and Stephen AXELSEN produced a wonderful kids’ storybook of Change! Endearing and whimsical; often read and loved, though this story is – one cannot explain the whisper – heard again – and again….”The Darkness never lasts”…

As many will be hunkered down and in varied degrees of isolation, I will happily produce much for you to read in this month’s report. Repeatedly, not just like the whisper whilst reading “Mrs Wiggins”, but in the world, all around us, ‘HEARING OUR VOICES’ not only whispers, but calls, sings, chants, shouts, repeats itself, and becomes a magnificent chorus in which there is no dissonance….

CASSANDRA is usually seen as tragic and quite mad! German author, the late Christa WOLF stretched physic limbs to explore changed relationships and retained taboos in her text “Cassandra”. (Virago Modern Classic Number 315 London: reprinted 1985, 1989, 1991). With changed internal and external relationships, gnaws the question of the degree of responsibility inherent in full consciousness. Today, I believe, like Wolf, that Cassandra lives on because the conflict between full awareness and woman’s aesthetic and socio-political impotence, still exists, as does her eternal plea for peace! SDGs 4/5/10/11

Strong, pained, whole, individuated/ I have felt her inside me – many times/Crouched. Previewing mangled, bloody/ piles of lifeless flesh. Death, city Troy Anaemic! Cassandra – fully alive…

Standing. Autonomous. Paradox of Life/pregnant now with the Knowing/that whispers and sings and shouts/and sometimes panics Itself into/Lunacy’s refuge. Dichotomous, Cassandra…

Watching the Sea swallow the Sun/ near the Scean Gate – with Myrine and I/ raising our voices with women – different/laughing, singing, crying, berating/yet no chromatic divergence, Cassandra…

Distorts, deflects or dissipates language/or our Pens, for they are One – and/powerful still, despite aged Shadows/Clytemnestra, Hecuba, Apollo, Priam/mildewy blinds in the contemporary/ and Collective Unconscious. Cassandra…

Boadicea we are not. Daughters of Iceni/Troy, Noonuccal and Etna, we drink no poison/ for our chalice is crafted, finely, of the Gold/and Silver that celebrates Life!…Neither/ full nor empty – the cup contains all Things.

Deep, the draught of Consciousness -/ Inherently potent with the Pain and Elixir/ of Knowing; of Being – every Other and Self. / Shouting and whispering to the Sleeping Ones/the Bound, the Egoic, the Heroes, the Destroyers

Who nevertheless shape Society and State. /Implicit, then, in the stance of Knowing/ is Woman’s still-born cry – still tearing/ impotent…for she is not shape-maker of/ Nations. Only of Self, Prophecy and Pen.

Regardless the dimension of her Perception/ Potent, then, her Pain. Present. Paradox. /Fully Conscious Cassandra, Woman, Mother/Knower, Lover, Political Literate, Priestess/No longer crouched – all seeing forever…./ We stand within each – gestate each other – Separate! Unify! Book Five Always Becoming…Jennifer Ann Davies 2010

WOMEN – The National Geographic Image Collection reflects women’s lives and is available at: shopng.com/booksSusan GOLDBERG wrote HEARING OUR VOICES in a special edition of National Geographic, in November 2019. Her introduction? “THE FIRST SCENE in the history of National Geographic doesn’t have a single woman in it…” Reference is to January 13, 1888, when 33 men of science and letters….voted the National Geographic Society into existence. “Over time, as the Image Collection grew – to more than 64 physical and digital assets today – another record unwittingly was formed: a global chronicle of the lives of women, up to the present day. These pictures, taken largely over the past century, are snapshots of their times, showing how women were perceived, how they were treated, how much power they had – or didn’t have. The images illustrate what used to be called, quaintly, “a woman’s place” – a concept that’s changing before our eyes.” Susan Goldberg National Geographic Nov 2019 SDGs 5/10/11

This was the first ever issue with all female contributing writers, artists and photographers. The question asked of each was: “What is your greatest strength?” Writer, Michele Norris responds that hers is “…my ability to recognise blind spots, see and hear things that most ignore, and spot pathways between well-worn trails.” p.10 Erika Larsen, photographer: “My belief in what I cannot see or hear but in what I feel.” Lyn Johnson, photographer: “I listen.” p.50 Writer, Nilanjana Bhowmick smiles: “I can delve beyond the obvious and apparent, and transform experiences into stories that matter.” p.98 and Saumya Khandelwal’s photography on page 98 supports her response that “Everything that’s in me by virtue of being a woman, I feel closely, live intuitively and steal moments of silence from what I see.” 

The myriad responses to the question of one’s greatest strength are worth reading! This publication is a grand read for every Woman; embracing the truths and possibilities of rejecting inferior status, demanding equality and unapologetically revelling in our ambition and success. Michele Norris p.10. Amid a stunning volume of immensely interesting articles, both here are important to our operations and goals.

Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which supports efforts to reduce inequality, poverty and other global ills: There isn’t a country on Earth where women have achieved true equality, and the barriers they face look different in different places. (However), no matter where you are in the world, understanding these barriers is the first step to dismantling them – and that requires making a concerted effort to gather better data about women and their lives. We don’t have reliable information about how many girls are going to school, how many women have the chance to earn an income, what their health and safety looks like and whether they’re dying preventable deaths. Without the data, we can’t design effective policies or interventions to meet women’s needs. Data is power. p.32 SDGs 4/5/10/17

Christiane Amanpour is chief international correspondent for CNN. A veteran war reporter, she has covered conflicts from Bosnia and Rwanda to Iraq and Afghanistan. Her message is important: “The most important challenge is still being considered second-class citizens, and the most important thing for us is to get men on our side, period. This has to be something that men help us with. It’s not a question of just swapping who’s dominant. We’re not looking for female dominance; we’re looking for equality and to level the playing field – and we can’t do that without men’s buy-in as well.” p.33 National Geographic: WOMEN: A Century of Change 

Overview of Non-Fiction Australian publications: A Dog Called Harry – Jill Baker. My Lucky Stroke – Sarah Brooker. Truganini – Cassandra Pybus.  Missing William Tyrrell – Caroline Overington. www.collinsbooks.com.au

The School of Restoration – Alice Achan & Phillippa Tyndale: Alice was just 13 when the Lord’s Resistance Army first terrorised her village in 1987. She took in a pregnant teenage girl, kidnapped and assaulted by the LRA and began to house survivors of the sexual violence that was a trademark of the LRA’s 20 year campaign. Out of this rose the Pader Girls’ Academy, which Alice saw as a ‘School of Restoration’. It has helped hundreds of girls left with babies and HIV as a result of their enslavement. SDGs 4/5/8/10/16

Overview of Fiction Australian publications – Where the Truth Lies.  Karina Kilmore. Who is more dangerous – a ruthless enemy or a woman pushed to the edge? The River Home Hannah Richell. Change, sorrow, healing…only if the Truth is told. Melting Moments – Anna Goldsworthy. …doing her duty as a woman, occasionally wondering, is this all there is? 

Desire Lines – Felicity Volk: Arctic Circle, 2012. Landscape architect Evie finds herself exhuming the past as she buries Australian seeds in a frozen vault. Molong, 1953. Catastrophe had befallen 7 year old Paddy – shipped from care in London to an Australian farm school, his world was a shadowy place….a compulsive, unconventional love grows, spans decades and takes the main characters in unexpected directions. www.collinsbooks.au

Well informed, prolific writer, Jennifer A. Nielsen, brings us the stories and voices of the lesser known heroines and heroes of the ghettos and death camps during the atrocities of World War 11. “Resistance” blends subjects skilfully: Jewish girls – Poland – The history of underground movements and occupation and the startling Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. 

The blend displays a bravery one hopes the world has not lost! Included in the extensive research is material from the archives of Yad Vashem. www.yadvasha.org (German, Polish & Yiddish words are italicized on first appearance in the text.)

“To those who resisted, in every way they resisted, this book is for you.”

For the young Jewish couriers, I hold you in the highest respect.

“Defence in the ghetto has become a fact. Armed Jewish resistance and revenge are actually happening. I have witnessed the glorious and heroic combat of the Jewish fighters…”excerpt from the last letter of Mordecai Anielewicz, April 23, 1943.

An afterword furnishes brief yet solid facts about resistance in Krakow and Warsaw; of ghettos and extermination camps: Bedzin, Bialystok, Treblinka, Sobibor and Auschwitz. An urgent history! Jennifer collects old books, loves good theatre and thinks that a quiet afternoon in the mountains makes for a nearly perfect moment. She lives with her husband, three children and a perpetually muddy dog! www.jennielsen.com Scholastic Press, N Y, 2018. SDGs 4/16

Kind messages, that pass from land to land

Kind letters that betray the hearts deep history

In which we feel the pressure of a hand

One touch of fire and all the rest is mystery. Henry Wordsworth Longfellow.

KIND MESSAGES have indeed passed from land to land during this unprecedented global crisis! Kind messages come to us from our Elisabeth in Melbourne, hunkered down with her trusty sewing machine and engaged in reviving her delicious veggie garden, as well as continuing reporting for all of us in Australia and our international colleagues, all over the world. President of the ICW-CIF, Dr Jungsook also sends her best and is hopeful that the postponed mid-term conference may be held in Avignon at the end of September 2020. 

Communication continues via our networks – and more kind messages have been received from Annamaria in Italy – Annamaria has been in lockdown for much longer than we have here in Australia – thankfully able to speak with family members but NO CONTACT has been the law in Northern Italy for some time. Mazel in Israel has informed us of the continuing hard work being carried out there with the heightening of tensions and fear as the Virus advances and swallows up lives; of the additional, heart-breaking work of helping those who are experiencing heightened cases of domestic violence and of those who are fearful of HOW they will put food on the table!  Hedva in Israel continues to send beautiful emails of the work and worries of the women in her surrounds; these are kind and wonderfully received, as are those from Eleanore in Austria. A magickal Grande Dame of Music, our international colleague will now be seeking other ways to soothe the soul and maintain hope; without silencing the song and sounds altogether! Leonie, our international co-ordinator for Communications, retains a positivity and humour that keeps people buoyant, as does Noela, our Queensland Angel; eternally contactable, helpful, wise and endlessly extending that beautiful ‘pressure of a hand’!! Salut! to All and Many Thanks! Grazie! Danke! Merci! Detecte! Gamsahabnida!

As Helen Keller once said: “I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”

Groups of musicians and artists are presenting their ‘gigs’ online – and on Facebook live – the singers and musicians say that this is not as easy as it may look, but some, like Australia’s BLONDE group, have presented their gig at the venue in which it would have taken place pre-Corona virus. The Absence of an audience is eerie, although the presence and vivacity of the performers lightens the darkness.

Other music lovers have sought YouTube presentations, such as that of Ed Sheeran – Perfect Symphony with the famed Andre BOCELLI. Another of great beauty is Andrea and Matteo Bocelli – Radio 2 Piano Room. More news of how the Arts/Music/Drama/Film industries will survive will be advised as such comes to hand.

SBS WORLD MOVIES is currently showing a Queensland film, set in Toowoomba. ‘DON’T TELL’ is moving, challenging, true and a grand tribute to the film-makers, director, script-writer, actors and actresses and to the sheer bravery of the young woman, who forged the way for Landmark Legislation for the future. “Once in a while, a movie qualified as art, because it was about Truth. Art was art only if it honoured enduring truths….” Dean Koontz

The people of Cairns were lucky enough to enjoy the Exhibition Opening Event of SIDNEY NOLAN’S NED KELLY SERIES on Friday 6 March, at the Cairns Art Gallery. This is a National Gallery of Australia exhibition, on tour for the first time in fifteen years. The Ned Kelly series of paintings is widely regarded as a masterpiece of 20th century Australian art. 

The iconic Ned Kelly series demonstrates Nolan’s extraordinary ability as an artist and a storyteller who could weave history with myths and legends to create an evocative and compelling series of works that celebrate an anti-hero and infamous outlaw. 

Dr Deborah HART, Head of Australian Art and Senior Curator of Australian Painting and Sculpture, National Gallery of Australia presented a lively and well-informed talk about the series and the ways in which the paintings are hung – for this is not necessarily in the sequence in which the works were painted. Dr Hart also pointed out the interesting symbology in the works and added some history, stating that Nolan’s grandfather was indeed one of the policemen who has chased Ned Kelly! The works themselves are fascinating, and just as the series did in the Irish Art Gallery in Dublin, it is clear that Nolan opens questions to which he does not actually offer answers! 

This is a delightful exhibition and it is a great shame that the public will not be able to view the series because of our current crisis. If it is to remain in North Queensland longer, I will advise.  Numbers of Queensland Art Galleries kindly informed us of their closures. Many thanks to all of you from the National Council of Women Queensland.

Another grand exhibition one hopes may be extended, is John MAWURNDJUL’s I AM THE OLD AND THE NEW. “Mankerrnge la mankare.” The old ways of doing things have changed into the new ways. The new generation does things differently. But me, I have two ways. I am the old and the new. John Mawurndjul: organised and toured by Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

As galleries, theatres and myriad venues have been forced to shut to protect Life, we return to the World of Letters – our world of Literature and what people here are reading. Some of these books reveal secrets, some hide more. Some lie and some reveal Truth. Some lighten and brighten, some challenge. All are interesting…and where I bring you the dense and the dark – remember The Darkness never lasts. Perhaps sometimes without it we are not able to see the LIGHT! 

Fiona Erskine – “She blows things up to keep people safe”! The Chemical Detective: Dr Jaq Silver, skier, scientist, international jet-setter, explosives expert, stumbles across a problem in Slovenia. Her evidence disappears. Racing between the snowy slopes of Slovenia and the ghostly ruins of Chernobyl, ‘The Chemical Detective’ is an electrifying read!  Point Blank Oneworld Publications, London, 2019.  www.oneworld-publications.com 

Erskine is a professional engineer based in Teesside, ‘though she travels frequently to Brazil, Russia, India and China. As a female engineer, she is often the lone representative of her gender in board meetings, cargo ships, night-time factories and off-shore oil rigs. Her writing offers a fascinating insight into this traditionally male world.

“Jaq thought that there must be a way.

Surely there was a way.

There was no breeze in the tunnel, no natural light, the whoosh and rattle of forced ventilation had long ceased. Within minutes the stuffy underground warren smelt of decay.

And death.

The lights went off.” SDGs 4/5/10/11

Sweeping across the world…Dean Koontz – The Night Window reflects a different world…. “The art of Francis Bacon reflects his view of human society as chaotic, confirms his belief in the need to impose order by brute power and extreme violence.” p.14 Harper Collins 2019 www.deankoontz.com

“Creating a neural (brain) lace is the thing that really matters for humanity to achieve symbiosis with machines.” Elon Musk

“Ultimately they were going to inject her with the neural lace that would web her brain and enslave her…” p.20

“He told stories of courage and fortitude; stories of ordinary people who refused to be crushed by the system or dictated to by self-appointed elites.” p.117

“It’s a goblin night: eerie green snowflakes, the falling of flakes like luminous citrine scales shed by some gathering of dragons in the sky.” p.122  SDGs 4/11/16     Read while we are all being Brave!

A 2010 novel by Harlan Coben ‘PLAY DEAD’ keeps you in suspense until the final page. Set in Palm Cove, the Pacific International Hotel and business houses just near the Marlin Jetty, this is a great thriller “…full of twists and turns, which explores the fierceness of paternal love…” Evening Standard www.orionbooks.co.uk    www.harlancoben.com

Extraordinary author, holder of the 2011 Medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts & Letters; famed forensic consultant and founding member of the U.S. National Forensic Academy, PATRICIA CORNWELL penned and publishes “Port Mortuary” also in 2010. Sphere. An imprint of Little Brown Book Group, London. www.hachette.co.uk  www.littlebrown.co.uk   This is a startling, ‘though not an ‘easy’ read. Cornwell compiled an unusual “Note to My Readers’ revealing the chilling reality of places, organisations, weaponry and technology in today’s world.

“The great Renaissance genius, Leonardo da Vinci, believed that art is science and science is art, and the solutions to all problems can be found in nature if one is meticulous and observant; if one faithfully seeks truth.” p.46

“A substantial percentage of research grants go to Cambridge area labs – Harvard M I T…war has become our national industry, like automotives, steel and the railroads once were…robots like MORT could be utilized in theatre to recover casualties so troops didn’t risk their lives for a fallen comrade”. This got tabled because using robots for such a purpose ‘supposes’ they can decide a fallen soldier, a human being, is fatally injured or dead! p.76

“I don’t agree with the belief that technology can save us. Certainly, it isn’t making us more civilised, and I actually think the opposite is true.” Pp179-180

“This is what we’re up against, Kay,” Briggs says, “Our brave new world, what I call neuroterrosism, what the Pentagon calls ‘the big fear’. Make us crazy and you win. Make us crazy enough and we’ll kill ourselves, saving the bad guys the trouble. In Afghanistan, give our troops opium, give them benzodiazepines, give them hallucinogenics, something to take the edge off their boredom – and then see what happens….”p430 SDGs 3/4/11/16

A read like no other!  Primum non nocere….First – do no harm.

Lightening up a little in this epic report – An Aussie Author to remember! Liane MORIARTY

Big

Little

Lies      Pan Macmillan Aust 2015

Liane Moriarty produces novels that are miracles of structure as well as human insight. Sydney Morning Herald

Piriwee Public School is like a zillion others. Mothers frantic, bullying, secrets – new young women, one single, with a son – another married another mother’s ex-husband – fuses herself with Yoga, herbal tea (vegan of course) and chakras…

The author fuses friendship, fuss, fears, fallacies and fun with marvellous humour and incisive insights, treating the reader, as well as her characters, with extraordinary tenderness.

“No-one marries funny and poignant quite like Lianne. She is the mistress of the razor-sharp observation…my favourite so far.” Kate Morton

“…little children have to be handled like explosive devices!” p191

WARNING: This novel may also have to be handled like an explosive device! Moriarty is a fantastically nimble writer. “Lashings of dark humour and ultimately drama.”Saturday Age. www.lianemoriarty.com   SDGs 3/4/10/16

“Magical and healing. 

Lovely.” The Times

“A glorious poem of a novel – a story to read slowly and to marvel at the beauty of it.” Rosamund Lupton.  

“Poetic and deeply moving…a lavish and clever read which will stand the test of time.” Herald.

“A YEAR OF MARVELLOUS WAYS”

Sarah WINMAN

This author writes with an excellence in her sweeping prose and beautiful interconnection with the natural and the unseen worlds. She magically weaves this sheer beauty throughout the entire novel, with her unwavering theme of love in all its forms. It is utterly beautiful and wonderfully readable, with the richest prose that ebbs and flows.

This is a story about Marvellous Ways, an eighty-nine year old Woman who sits by a creek in Cornwell, waiting for a last adventure. It’s also about Francis Drake, a young soldier who washes up there, reeling from the war and broken-hearted. It’s about the magic in everyday life and the lure of the sea, the healing powers of storytelling and sloe gin, and how we carry on when grief comes snapping at our heels.

This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read and Thank You to Nile and Sheila or I may have missed it!!! You were telling me a story and the story’s not finished. You can’t leave a story in the middle.

How do you know it was the middle?

Because it wasn’t the beginning. And it wasn’t the end.

How do you know it wasn’t the end? p123   Kathy you will love this novel.

SDGs 4/17

‘Marvellous held the postcard up to her eyes again and studied the script. She saw gratitude and promise in the flourish of his hand. It had been a long time since she had cried, but she knew she didn’t need her tears any more because there was no point in tears outliving eyes, so she let them fall.”p235. “Later she listened to the earth turn. It has a melody that only the gentle hear.” p254 

A poet, writer and woman after my own heart, Winman writes in her acknowledgements: “Research is not something that comes easily to me and I find it sleep inducing at the best of times, frustrating at the worst, and a hindrance, always, to my childlike impulse to spontaneously tell a story…” She does, however, thank the people, institutions and organisations for relevant information, which allowed the writing process to be truly enriching….Tinder Press an imprint of Headline Publishing Group UK 2015. www.tinderpress.co.uk www.hachette.co.uk

All the very best in these trying times.  Wait… can you hear that? So very, very soft – gentle – persistent…The softest, most gentle whisper of all Time “Remember – The Darkness never lasts”

Even with libraries closed, there may be new ways to share books – not just online. I will advise if new ideas or projects to accommodate readers are available. Facebook users will already know that The Marketplace offers all sorts of commodities.

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