Good Reading : December 2017
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING DECEMBER 2017 / JANUARY 2018 22 In 2017, Indigenous publisher Magabala Books celebrated the 30th anniversary of its first publication. That’s no small feat for the Broome-based organisation that was born from the dust and dirt of one of the most geographically isolated locations in the world. Named after the Nyul Nyul, Nyangumarta, Karajarri and Yawuru traditional language word for ‘bush banana’, which spreads its seeds far and wide, Magabala Books was established in 1984 at a traditional Aboriginal song and dance festival held at Ngumpan near Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia. It was here that the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre (KALACC) was formed to support the traditional cultural practices of the 30 Aboriginal language groups across the Kimberley region. Directed and run by Abor iginal leaders, KALACC aims to protect the rights of traditional storytellers and artists and ensure that Aboriginal stories are recorded and shared with future generations, which led to the establishment of Magabala Books. At a time when much had been, or was being, written about Aboriginal people, the decision to establish a publishing arm of KALACC was ambitious, but it was done largely in response to concerns that Indigenous stories were being taken and published without permission by non-Indigenous academics and wr iters. In 1987, Magabala Books published its first title, Mayi: Some bush fruits of the West Kimberley by Merrilee Lands. The profile and presence in the industry of Magabala Books has grown steadily over the years. Last year, 2016, was the organisation’s most financially successful year in its history, and Magabala was shortlisted for Small Publisher of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards in 2017. Numerous prestigious literary prizes have been awarded to its authors and illustrators throughout the course of its 30-year history. The most notable recipient of these accolades is Bruce Pascoe, a Bunurong,Yuin and Tasmanian man whose seminal work Dark Emu (2014) won the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2016 Book of the Year, and it’s Magabala’s biggest-selling title to date. In 2017, South Australian poet and Yankunytjatjara and Kokatha woman Ali Cobby Eckermann, whose first work published by Magabala Books was her verse novel Ruby Moonlight in 2012, was awarded a Windham– Campbell Literature Prizes for poetry from Yale University in the United States which, at US$165 000, is one of the world’s r ichest literary prizes. Thirty-three years after that bush meeting in Ngumpan, the original mission of Magabala Books – to enable Aboriginal people to tell their own stories and ensure that cultural protocols are observed and that the benefits flow back to the right people – still stands strong. Magabala’s titles are entertaining, moving, gripping, full of wit, courage and universal wisdom, and they take their place among the greats in the canon of Australian literature. OFF THE SHELF Based in Broome, Magabala Books has pioneered the telling of Indigenous stories by Indigenous people themselves for three decades.