Judith Wright’s Bora Ring: Post-Colonial Elements

Judith Wright

A highly acclaimed critic of Australian poetry, Judith Wright is also a well-known poet and short-story writer who was an uncompromising campaigner for Aboriginal land rights. Her poetic images characteristically draw from the Australian flora and fauna, yet contain a mythic substrata. She was sensitive enough to notice that the European colonialists have destroyed the originality of the country and this forms the central theme of her whole poetic output. She was brought up in the atmosphere of colonialism and had painfully noticed how their original culture, ways of life and music and literature even the complete history had been completely destroyed.

The poem entitled “Bora Ring” is a powerful voice of Judith Wright in favour of the aboriginal Australians and in this short poem she expresses her dislike and deep twinge for the colonial forces. Actually Bora Rings are circles in the ground constructed from earth and stone, typically associated with religious ceremonies of the Aboriginal society. Since the colonisation of the British, the annihilation of Australia’s Bora Rings took place cosmically. Urbanization coupled with a disrespect for indigenous values have been responsible for the demise of these cultural sites and values. The poetess’ first hand experiences of the dismal conditions since childhood aided to the intense graphic sincerity in her sympathies.

The poem begins with the expression of deep anguish and agony at the extermination of the ethnicity of the native Australians which was destroyed by the Europeans. The persona pines for the lost dance of the aborigines-

‘’The song is gone; the dance

is secret with the dancers in the earth,

the ritual useless, and the tribal story

lost in an alien tale.

Only the Grass stands up

to mark the dancing -ring;’’

An Aboriginal Bora Ring

The colonisers have rooted out the wellspring and means of all original entertainment: the singing, the dancing, the performances have truncated to isolation. The chants of their unusual and unique, script less songs of a certain dialect are no more audible and tall grass has grown.

The aboriginal civilisation is one of hunters and gatherers. Since the advent of the whites, hunting is no more than a dream. All that one discovers of the activities of the native people of Africa is through their broken spears, bows, arrows and boomerangs excavated out by the archaeologists. The cult of painting bodies while dancing, their hunting ethnography; all doomed. The aborigines were forgotten, and so are their memories.

‘’The hunter is gone; the spear

is splintered underground; the painted bodies

a dream the world breathed sleeping and forgot.’’

The settlement of the colonisers pushed the natives into jungles. Seldom, they would be seen trespassing the farms but now the nomadic feet no longer encroaches on the lands of the settlers. The persona bewails the cessation of the natives. The introduction of the biblical allusion of Cain in the poem is of great metaphorical magnitude. Cain, the elder son of Adam and Eve committed fratricide on his brother Abel, out of sheer jealousy. Well, the colonisers show similarity by killing the native brother-settlers. The bitter truth is that the strong and clever should destroy the weak and helpless which is a tendency that is present in our genes. Surely, jealousy and the will to power are regrettably pathological tendencies.

‘’ The nomad feet are still.

Only the rider’s heart

halts at a sightless shadow,

an unsaid word that fastens in the blood of the ancient curse,

the fear as old as Cain. ‘’

To conclude we can say that Wright’s poem is an elegy for lost Aboriginal culture, but is also simultaneously an elegy for the European culture which has supplanted it; and implicitly too a protest poem of an explicitly political nature.

As M.H. Abrams averred on Postcolonialism,

“The mode of imperialism imposed its power not by force, but by the effective means of disseminating in subjugated colonies a Eurocentric discourse that assumed the normality and pre-eminence of everything ‘occidental’, correlatively with its representations of the ‘oriental’ as an exotic and inferior other.”

An amateur writer who is in a constant dilemma between accepting reality and drowning in her surrealistic reveries.