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Commissioned response to The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson by Ayomide Abolaji

Blood talks. A siren

Song calling for its likeness

Will you answer it? ♥

They took away what

was yours by chains, chords, collars

It’s time to sever ♥

Connection to this

Arid land. Let the mountains

House you and keep you. ♥

She is a dark horse

no other, strong and tender

Much to uncover ♥

Ancestral stories

make-up the lining of her

uterus she births ♥

Her babes. Labour pains,

water breaks, blood seeps and leaks

You must protect them. ♥

Guard them and guide them

These kids are your legacy

You are fierce mother ♥

Your mother’s crimson

red hair, another’s mother’s

skin glistens jewel black ♥

Mary Mary quite

contrary, Your lamb’s fleece may

be white as fresh snow ♥

But they will never

forget your blackness: tar brush

paints you dangerous ♥

Fight for her life, yes

Fight for her children she will

Gun cocked, ready, aim ♥

Fire and moonlight

Stardust and fresh brown earth is

Their inheritance ♥

They swore your existence criminal

You vowed your existence blessing ♥

Take his calloused hand

His kindness buries the stench

of the enemy ♥ Your son hugs a stranger

better than a father

Yes, it’s in the genes. ♥

Does their lineage

Boast of fortunes

With happy endings guaranteed? ♥

What was their happy

Ending? Possession of a

body not their own? ♥

Pillaging and conquering

Sowing seeds of savagery

All on their own ♥

Will you scream for them

Who say, defeated, there was

Always violence? ♥

Are we the weaker

sex? Because our bodies

tend to be softer? ♥

As if our softness

does not flow like water and

nourish the growth of their strong roots ♥

As if they do not lap greedily at our wombs ♥

As if our downy

flesh was not forged from the sinew

of Gaia’s core ♥

They forget that our

softness makes us malleable ♥

Malleable enough

to morph love into armour ♥

Which historically

they have used without

discernment ♥

Tribe ♥

How much longer must

we wade in the waters of

the outback? ♥

How much longer will

our stories be told

by pale mouths? ♥

Filtered till all meaning is lost

And all that is centred is

the white voice? ♥ When will we hear ourselves?

Be seen? Be held? ♥

How will we carry ourselves?

Like we matter ♥

Because we do ♥

Witness us. Witness her. ♥

Born warrior

It is woven in her skin

It careens through the marrow ♥

No more bowing

No more cowering

It’s between the eyes ♥

It’s in fingertips on the trigger ♥

Fight for her life

Fight for her rights ♥

Fight for her children

For her blood and brethren

She will ♥

Misogyny tried

to silence you. Racism

Tried to debase you ♥

Null and void you, make

You something you have never

Been. So scream bloody murder ♥

Exsanguinate the old version of you

Now engulfed by the truth of your DNA

Family waits for you

Home calls for you. ♥

So holler out your battle cry

Make a mockery of the colonialism that threatened to erase you.

Watch sex and kin rally around you

Black woman. Mother. Daughter. Sister. Wife. You. ♥

Speak. We’re listening.

Speak. We can hold this.

Far and wide. We hear. ♥

From nameless woman

Of a man’s tale, to the

Legend: Molly Johnson. © Ayomide Abolaji ♥ ♥  Ayomide Abolaji’s REVIEW of the film THE DROVER’S WIFE: THE LEGEND OF MOLLY JOHNSON The poem above is inspired by a visually stunning piece of cinema featuring brilliant wide shots of rolling hills and snowy peaks, along with a warm and crisp cinematography that juxtaposes with the gritty realities of its characters. The first Australian feature film with an Indigenous woman writing, directing and performing the lead role. Based on the Henry Lawson short story of (almost) the same name, The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson comes to the silver screen in its third medium. With previous success as a play and novel, the film follows the heavily pregnant mother of four, Molly Johnson, and the events that ensue in the absence of her husband when she finds an escaped Indigenous Australian convict (Rob Collins) wounded on her land. While keeping to “the essence of the Henry Lawson short story and his underlining themes of racism, frontier violence and gender violence” (Purcell, 2022), Purcell injects the film with personal Indigenous stories that she grew up hearing and gives it a layer of verity that might have otherwise been missing. The dialogue from Yadaka (Collins) and Molly (Purcell), in particular, carries a rhythm and fluidity attributed to seasoned storytellers — paying homage to those present in Purcell’s real life and history. Skin is not just black but “black shining skin in full moonlight”. Every word is purposeful and deliberate. Enhanced further by the silences that are almost as vast as the landscapes captured. Silences that allow the audience to reflect on what has just taken place; to sit in anticipation of what may follow such stillness; to bask in the quiet; or to do all of the above. Unlike Lawson, by naming the drover’s wife, Purcell instantly bestows the character with an autonomy and identity outside of her husband. This act is important not only because of the feminist issues tackled in the film, but because Molly’s identity – her heritage – is integral to the film’s plot and message. A centring of marginalised and often misrepresented voices, as well as the administration of a hard pill to swallow: it is all still relevant. Beyond the issues of misogyny, racism and colonialism, The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson is a film about the fierce love of a mother. In Molly Johnson, Purcell gives us a character who is willing to go to great lengths to ensure the safety and freedom of her children. All one has to do is listen to ‘A Mother’s Scorn’, track 14 on the film’s official soundtrack, (composed by Salliana Seven Campbell) to understand. By having this theme of love threading through the film and showcasing Yadaka as a father figure, Purcell highlights an importance of family and community to Indigenous people. The film does have some shortcomings, however. There are certain points in the film that can only be likened to being on a rollercoaster and waiting for the exhilaration of a fall that sadly never comes. Some of the characters fall into stereotypes that render them one dimensional and cliché. And as we head to the film’s conclusion the events become predictable. Nevertheless, none of this takes away from the cultural significance of what Purcell has done. She has created a film that counteracts the erasure of Indigenous Australians and prioritises the female gaze in a male-gaze-saturated genre. The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson is an essential disruption. ♥ ♥ THE DROVER’S WIFE: THE LEGEND OF MOLLY JOHNSON is available on demand from today, 13 June. ♥♥ Bibliography
Gbogbo, M. (2022) ‘The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson is a compelling story
weaving in present and historical truths’, ABC News Australia, 12 May. Available at:
purcell/101032364 (Accessed: 8 May 2022) ♥ About Ayomide Abolaji ♥ Ayomide Abolaji is a talented writer/poet, model and co-curator of Vague Culture Club , where her obsession for K-dramas (amongst other media and literature) is given space to flourish. As well as being a crew member at VAGUE, she is a member of the Manchester-based writing charity/collective, Young Identity. She has performed at various events including One Mic Stand at MIF (2019); Deranged Poetesses – an annual event ran by Apples and Snakes’ Stockton division (2019); opened for Benjamin Zephaniah (2019); and Manchester Central Library’s celebration of International Woman’s Day (2020). Gifted with a beautiful voice it is not unusual for Ayomide to accompany her poetry with some singing. ♥
Ayomide’s poetry often delves into topics such as race, the visibility of black people, spirituality, mental health, sexuality, and feminism. She currently works as a production assistant for Inside Job Productions where her main role is to help facilitate the practical film courses they run in two prisons across London. ♥ Follow Ayomide on Instagram @ayomid_night and on TikTok @ayomidknight

Commissioned response to The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson by Ayomide Abolaji

ARTISTIC RESPONSE to THE DROVER’S WIFE: THE LEGEND OF MOLLY JOHNSON By Ayomide Abolaji ♥ Blood talks. A siren Song calling for its...

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