16 November 2020
A Conversation with Maya Hodge
Maya Hodge is a proud Lardil woman raised in Mildura, Victoria. Based on Kulin Country, Maya is an emerging poet, artist, curator and musician whose work explores healing through the arts. Maya is a co-winner of the PEN Mildura Indigenous Writers Award.
This conversation took place during the COVID-19 lockdown, prompted by Maya's participation in the Constant Ecology project.
Maya and I, in conversation. Maya was home with her mum on Latji Latji Country (Mildura). I was in my bedroom on Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Country.
A while after our initial conversation, I sent Maya an audio recording of 'The Unseen', something I wrote after reading Tara June Winch's The Yield (2019). Maya and I have been having these ongoing yarns about time even before the COVID-19 lockdowns.
You ask me what I think of how we measure power. Power of the mind, body or spirit. Power in the mental race we find ourselves trapped within — and I think I’m coming to terms with this. This unseen element of myself that I have avoided eye-contact with because I think most of us are afraid of that part of ourselves. Perhaps we are afraid of the power required to look the neglected parts of our being dead in the eye and say: 'I see you'. The only word in Lardil that I know that comes close to this is banji, which means to smell. One day I will teach my dormant tongue to speak my Ancestors' language. In time. Though time is a languid thing that likes to stretch past me in the shadows of the drooping sun. Presenting, like you said, a past self in every passing moment of the day, this now-unseen part of myself lost in the confines of my memory. I often think of how our Ancestors thought about time and what this held in their hearts. Time wasn’t a clock on a wall, time was reflected in the people around us, in our maturity and clarity as we become wizened and grey. In the moments of happiness spent with our old people and our family, because only with time do we get to know ourselves and the people we share blood with. You speak of women's circles. I don’t think I have sat in a women's circle in a long time, not since isolation. When I enter those circles I feel like our Old People are looking at us through a film of the unseen, because we are still practicing our circles, which encapsulate the foundations of our culture. We are continuing to connect with one another and learn and yarn and cry together. I felt a semblance of this when we sat together online or on the phone. But it's not enough — we need to sit in person and sit with ourselves and stop and listen and think, with the land we love like we love each other. These are the things I thought of when you spoke of power — a past self, time, women's circle and the unseen.
Jenna Rain Warwick is a proud Luritja woman, emerging artist and publishing writer whose work speaks to her desire to champion the creative imagination of First Nations peoples. Jenna is the inaugural un Writer in Residence, with thanks to the support of Creative Victoria and Yarra City Council.