:: Gurindji Journey ::
Book Launch Speech - Yuki Hokari
Exactly seven years ago today, May 10, 2004, my brother, Minoru Hokari, the author of this book, passed away in Melbourne. It was lymphoma. He was 32 and just about to start his promising career as a historian.
This is a book that Mino promised the Gurindji people that he would publish and deliver their story to the world.
He asked 10 communities for permission to stay in their community to learn about their history. Seven ignored his requests, two refused and only the Gurindji people accepted him. Mino understood the reason why the Gurindji people accepted him into their community and shared their stories with him. They expected him to spread their stories…throughout Australia, Japan and beyond, to the rest of the world.
He finished his English manuscript for publication soon after his PhD dissertation acceptance in 2001. However, before publishing his own book, he translated Deborah Bird Rose’s Nourishing Terrains and co-translated Ghassan Hage’s White Nation into Japanese. Then, he was diagnosed with cancer.
After the diagnosis, he had only 10 months to live. He started writing a book in Japanese after he was moved to a hospice at the final stage of cancer. He finished writing a few days before his passing, and the book was published a few months later, as Radical Oral History: Historical Practice of Indigenous Australians in Japan. About 4,000 copies have been sold and it has established its status as a long-selling academic book.
However, this Japanese book does not present the full depth and breadth of his research. It is more like a collection of his thoughts and findings from various academic angles, and strongly and persistently conveying the Gurindji’s message:
“Why didn’t white people ask us for permission to enter our country? If they had, we would have welcomed them.”
It was meant to be an introduction to Japanese readers who are not familiar with Indigenous Australians. As Mino had intended, the book was widely read by not only academics but also ordinary people in Japan, which served his mission very well.
Today, I can say, Gurindji Journey IS the book of Minoru Hokari. It is not just an English translation of his Japanese book.
I don’t want to reveal too much of this book, so please read it from cover to cover, even the acknowledgements. Mino is not here to meet you, but you will meet him in this book.
Many people who read his Japanese book say they wish they’d been able to meet him in person and talk to him. He has such a voice in writing. Ann McGrath, Tessa Morris-Suzuki and myself contributed some pieces and those describe him as a person, as a scholar, as a friend, really well.
I know Mino is now happily telling his main teacher, Old Jimmy, about this book. He is relieved that he was able to keep his promise to the Gurindji people.
I have done many things to compensate for my brother’s untimely passing for the last seven years, such as creating a memorial website, fundraising for his memorial scholarship funds at ANU and University of New South Wales, opening photography exhibitions in several locations in Japan, publishing the exhibition catalogue.
Once I thought publishing this book would the last piece that I have to do in order to complete his life.
But I don’t feel at all this is the end or the last thing I will do for him. During these past seven years, some people have lost touch with Mino or myself, but I have helped Mino keep meeting new people and he has influenced their lives. I think we lose some and we gain some in our lives, which keeps us in balance and helps us move forward. Perhaps I will have it translated this book back to Japanese some day.
After all, I believe all the work Mino has done should return to the Indigenous Australian community, therefore, an advance copy of Gurindji Journey was sent to one of Mino’s mentors who is still alive and all royalties from the sale of this book will be directly donated to the Minoru Hokari Memorial Scholarship Fund for fieldwork in indigenous history, founded by the Australian National University.
Lastly, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to those who made this book and the launch possible.
Prof. Ann McGrath, Prof. Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Kyoko Uchida, and those of you who asked me about the existence of an English manuscript. Thank you so much for not letting me give up.
Phillipa McGuinness, Melita Rogowsky, Heather Cam, Sarah Shrubb and Matt Howard at the New South Wales Press and
Gleebooks event manager Christopher Cyrill.
The Co-op Bookshop manager David Skinner
And my bother, Minoru, for having full faith in me and patiently waiting for this day to happen.
Although he is not here today with you, I have made a stamp of his signature, so I will be happy to stamp it on your copy. And I want you to sign on my copy as well.
Thank you for coming and celebrating the publication of this book with us; I hope you will enjoy it.
Being Connected with HOKARI MINORU