Nanima: Euroka

Chapter 4: Biladurang

Euroka lived in a hut on the Biladurang. It was the smaller of the two rivers that joined in Nanima. Biladurang ran along the back side of the town and then into the bigger, more impressive Wambuul. The indigenous names of the rivers didn’t have River attached to them as they do in English. They were individual and complete entities in their own right; just like people.

“Ah,” said Euroka with a grin of white teeth, “you’ve come down the Biladurang to see me on Valentine’s Day.”

Maliyan ignored him. Unless he had changed, Euroka was not a man looking for a valentine. 

“I wasn’t sure if you still lived here,” said Maliyan.

“Always here,” said Euroka, “except when it floods and the backwash from the Wambuul reaches my house. Otherwise, been here my whole adult life. Speaking of years, haven’t seen you for a few.”

Maliyan looked, in turn, at the hut, the vegetable garden, and the river bank bordered with old gums. 

“Looks the same,” she said.

“Why change what don’t need changin’,” said Euroka.

Maliyan noted his grammar and thought, He has always been a sage type of person, but not an educated one. Rather, he is educated by everything but the education system.

“Learned all I know from this river,” said Euroka. “Rivers know it all. Nothin’ worth knowin’ that they don’t know.”

Euroka held his eyes on his beloved river – his lifelong companion. He stood in a comfortably commanding way. His long, grey-white, curly hair was tied in a loose ponytail. His build was slim, but strong from outdoor life. His face had many lines. His eyes had many powers. He was a mixture of features – Aboriginal, Chinese, and English. His broad nose was Aboriginal. His skin tone was naturally white but deeply tanned from constant sun exposure. His expressive eyes were Chinese.

Maliyan originally met him through her teenage boyfriend. Euroka was one of his cousins. However, Euroka’s line of the family was a mixture of races. He refused to identify with any one of them exclusively. He had been asked, many times, to be an Aboriginal elder, but he said that he belonged to no one and to everyone. 

Chapter 5: Bone and Stone

These days, Euroka had quite a reputation as a photographic artist; not that he cared for fame or money. He occasionally sold his works for his own financial needs and gave the rest of the money to the local Aboriginal mission. 

Glancing through the open door of Euroka’s hut, Maliyan saw a pile of large artworks leaning against the wall. It was a small hut. Euroka did big works. There was only space for one of them on the wall. She could see that it was an image of him lying naked, in the dirt, in the middle of bushland. That was his trademark – him naked, somewhere in the Australian bush. 

Another of the images was of him in a muddy waterway. The way it was constructed, you couldn’t tell if he was trying to crawl into the water or tunnel into the land like a wombat. Another was of him, foetal-position, next to a pile of dead stock in a drought-ridden, bone-dry river bed. In yet another, he was rolling in the virgin waves of an isolated beach. The sheer size of the place seemed to consume the lone, insignificant body. One of the most moving images was of Euroka lying in the middle of recently burnt-out forest. He was smeared in ash and covered in sticks and twigs. Everything about it shook with grief. You could practically smell the fire’s trail through the painting.

A peculiarly unique quality of the images was that Euroka could take on the form of either male or female. He oscillated between the two. He was able to turn his still-flexible, sixty-year-old body into shapes which were gender bending. He had a straight-up-and-down body – not the broad shoulders of a more strongly masculine body type. His shoulders and hips almost matched in size. With no extra fat, he did not have the give-away pot belly that many older males parade. 

For the female images, he let his long hair flow. He knew how to shape his hips so that they carried a feminine line. More than that, he channelled feminine energy. Everyone, including children, thought that it was a woman in the dirt.

In all the photographs, Euroka had his back towards the camera. Otherwise, his prizewinning photographs would have been classed as pornography. In fact, they had no sense of the sexual in them. Or if they did, it could only be classed as the great orgasm of creation’s exploding passion or the gentle beauty of a bud shyly raising its head sunwards. It seemed the most natural thing in the world for Euroka to be unclothed because how else could one claim one’s maternal heritage but by being blood and bone, dirt and stone?

In the photograph on the hut wall, Euroka was looking decidedly male. Although he had definite techniques to bring out his masculinity in the male-based photographs, there was one particular feature that stood out in this picture – his hairy male backside.

Chapter 6: Guwayu

Being Valentine’s Day, Maliyan had been thinking about her past loves. If you are a loving person, by the time you are fifty, you will have loved many people. Even if you have been married to the same person for thirty years, in your heart of hearts, you’ll have loved others. Humans are like that.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” said Euroka as Maliyan prepared to leave.

Remembering a quote by Kahlil Gibran, she said, “Between what is said and not meant, and what is meant and not said, most of love is lost.”

“Yep,” said Euroka. “Don’t say what you don’t mean. Say what you do. Guwayu.”

“Guwayu [see you soon],” said Maliyan.

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