08 May 2019

Review: Matriarch

Jinda Productions
7 May 2019
The Butterfly Club
to 11 May

Sandy Greenwood

Sandy Greenwood wrote her honours thesis about the intergenerational trauma of the Stolen Generations. She understood it, but it didn't help her own trauma.

Greenwood tells her story in Matriarch. It's a story that is inseparable from those of her mother, grandmother (Nan) and great grandmother on her father's side (Gran).

She's a Gumbaynggirr woman from Bowraville on the mid-north-coast of NSW. It's a town that had an Aboriginal Christian mission, where Greenwood was brought up in the 1980s. It's also a town that once had a white pub and black pub, segregated its cinema, was a stop on the 1965 Freedom Ride and is remembered for the unsolved murder of two Aboriginal children in the 1990s.

But Greenwood's matriarchal story doesn't begin or end with the past and the ongoing disrespect and trauma facing the Indigenous people who live there. Her story is one of family and love. It's one of teenagers going on dates, of getting your mum and gran to help heal a bird's broken wing, of bath time for 14 children, of kids growing up and playing in the bush. It's about knowing that mums and nans are always there even if you don't know why they behave in the ways that they do. And it's one about learning that there's love and healing in clan and country even if you've got your dad's skin-colour gene.

Greenwood knew at a young age that having white skin gave her an unearned advantage. Matriarch is her story about understanding the women who created her and a way for those women to talk to us today and let their story become ours.

I've never been to Bowraville, but seeing their stories in an alternative cabaret venue in the middle of the city I live in makes it a story that belongs to everyone who sees it. It's so far from my story, but it's a story about women and family and the history of the country I was born in.

Greenwood tells her story and her mum's story and channels those of her grandmother and great mother. Stories are how we begin to understand experiences that aren't our own. Matriarch is a story about healing trauma.

Greenwood's Nan had 14 children. When her husband left her, she left the city and went back to her country where Gran (who was also a traditional midwife) helped her look after the children. They were all loved, fed, clothed and went to school. They were all taken away.

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