Editor’s Note

October 2012 Editor's Note

Six months ago, when this editor was still very fresh in the job, October’s special arts issue loomed as a challenge. Having spent close to half my adult life in the Deep North, the arts had faded from view, the Big Mango excepted. A little added perspective wouldn’t go astray, I thought, so I looked to recruit a guest arts editor, someone of a more metropolitan stripe.

Paul Grabowsky came to mind. As well as a renowned jazz musician, he’s an arts festival director, a composer, a gourmand and a voracious consumer of literature. That, I figured, should cover most bases.

To my delight, he keenly accepted the invitation. As it turned out, though, Paul shared my inclination to look to the interior for inspiration. For a notionally empty land, there’s a remarkable lot to sustain the soul. Stories in this issue come from the eastern Pilbara, the Pitjantjatjara lands, Mount Isa, Arnhem Land, Broome and Shepparton. We didn’t set out to cast so far and wide. It just happened. One by one, over several meetings, these stories of and from the bush, some burnished by the city, some not, began to glimmer. A theme took hold of the magazine, without us really noticing. Entirely by coincidence, or at best subconsciously, this theme shines through even in Chloe Hooper’s piece on the satin bowerbird, whose performance art is on permanent display in a tiny patch of recreated rainforest at the Melbourne Museum.

The result is a very special issue. It’s not all desert and the arts; there are also the usual beautiful and powerful pieces – by Helen Garner, John Banville, Mungo MacCallum, John Clare, Alexandra Coghlan, Linda Jaivin and retired Major-General John Cantwell. Still, some people will mistake this for the indigenous arts issue. It’s not. It’s an Australian issue, pure and simple.

John van Tiggelen

John van Tiggelen is a freelance writer and the author of Mango Country.

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