Span 37

Journal of the South Pacific Assoc for Cwlth Lit and Language Studies
Number 37, 1993
Yorga Wangi:
Postcolonialism and Feminism

Edited by Anne Brewster, Marion Campbell, Ann McGuire, Kathryn Trees

Native

Maria Degabriele

How far back do you have to go to be Native? Being born somewhere and continuing to live there is clearly not enough. Well, it's not enough if you're White and if you're European and you live in an old British colony. But what if you're not White enough? People ask where you're from. And you say I'm from here. And they say but where's your family from? And you say from Egypt. And they say you're Arabic. And you say no, we're Maltese. And they say something like how cosmopolitan or what a rich Mediterranean tapestry or they say all that history. They really do. Your grandmothers don't count. It doesn't count that the only grandparent that you lived with and knew well was your Greek Lebanese grandmother. She doesn't count. She was the one who got married at seventeen and bore her eight children in the Sudan before moving to a village in Egypt. The women made new homes for their family wherever their men went. They weren't Natives. They were always foreigners. But they made homes. They shopped, cooked, cleaned, cared, schooled, dressed, laughed, cried, worried, scowled, loved. They made the homes we all grew up in. But they still don't really count. What's the male equivalent for maiden name? I have trouble remembering my grandmothers' names. That is, their fathers' names. That particular grandmother had a Greek name. Then she had a French Maltese name. That was my mother's name. Then my mother had an Italian Maltese name. That was always my name. Except for a short time when I tried using another man's name. Well, it was his father's name. Not his biological father. He didn't give him anything. Even his adoptive father's name was changed. To simplify they say. More likely to sound less Jewish. War trauma. So I used my maiden name. It's nearly the end of the twentieth century and I'm middle-aged and I still have something called a maiden name. Even if it's carefully replaced with something else like a family name or a second name or a last name it's still the name of the fathers. Maybe I'm a Native of my fathers. Can't be. Natives are supposed to be spiritual, earthy, natural, in tune, healthy, artistic, musical and either friendly or hostile. Natives are linked like a spouse to a place. Above all Natives are recognisable because they are authentic and they stay where they belong.

Murdoch University


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