Pilbara Palyku mob share opulent illustrations; tense questions

We All Sleep, Fremantle PressArtist Sally Morgan
We All Sleep by Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina. Image supplied by Fremantle Press.

Crocs, kookaburras and a dingo howling in the golden light of the moon—these are some of the creatures that populate mother-and-son team Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina’s gorgeous book for infants We All Sleep.

The book spans a day and takes youngsters on a journey from mangrove-trimmed lagoons, to red rock ridges alive with snakes. The illustrations vibrate on the page, opulent colours that bring to life country and its creatures.

It’s one of two new editions recently released by Fremantle Press—the other, I Love Me, by Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina, is full of joy, elation, and encourages infants and children to celebrate and trust in the uniqueness of the self.

‘I love my eyes, I love my nose, I love the way my curly hair grows!’ Sally Morgan writes.

Both stories are in the form of board books, with thick card pages perfect to resist bumped-over liquids or smeared food, and great for weekends camping or on country.

Sally, Ezekiel and Ambelin are all Palyku people, from Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

In addition to these two children’s books, Ezekiel and Ambelin have also been involved—as a poet, and illustrator/editor respectively—in another recent publication by Fremantle Press, a collection of short stories, memoir, and poetry titled Meet Me at the Intersection, released at the start of this month.

The anthology opens with the voices of First Nations’ people and then widens to incorporate other marginalised Australian voices, including writers who live with disabilities or mental illness, and LGBTIQA+ writers.

The book’s editors, Ambelin Kwaymullina and Rebecca Lim, were prompted to found the anthology when considering the under-representation of diverse Australian voices in children’s and young adult literature.

The results are fresh and important. In Kyle Lynch’s memoir ‘Dear Mate’ we learn of his attempts to snag a job in Kalgoorlie, WA.

‘You gunna help me or what?’ he asks his aunty in the KACC office.

She helps him build a solid résumé—but that’s only the start.

The next tricky thing is trying to find a lift into town so that he can drop it off. There’s a hot thread of tension running through this piece—the checking and rechecking the phone, the disappointment when the first job doesn’t come through—and it’s a tension apparent in the other pieces too.

The writers ask: how does one form a strong Aboriginal identity in the wake of colonisation? How does one form a strong, queer Aboriginal identity? And in the case of Ezekiel Kwaymullina, how does one overcome dyslexia, when the teachers are completely oblivious to the Aboriginal boy at the back of the class whose mind is a ‘fading star’?

All three books are available at www.fremantlepress.com.au or you can check in with your local bookshop.

By Madelaine Dickie

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