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The Australian National University (ANU): Minoru Hokari Memorial Scholarship Fund

The Petal and its Bang

Mino's historical research work created a bang, but so did the wonderful way he lived - a life of integrity, passion and a sense of fun he shared with everyone he met. The Minoru Hokari Memorial Scholarship is intended to assist other young people to follow their dreams and to perform work that spreads insights into Indigenous ways of thinking about history with others who inhabit this shared globe.

At the end of Mino Hokari's Doctoral thesis, he talks about academic writing. About a distinguished colleague who said that writing was like dropping a stone into a deep well and waiting for the splash. No, said his friend, it is like dropping a rose petal into the Grand Canyon and waiting for the bang.

Dr Mino Hokari had a spirit of adventure and a creative intellect marked by a flexible, imaginative style. While studying Economics at Hitotsubashi University, he dreamt of living with an Australian Indigenous people. He obtained prestigious Scholarships to study in Australia, and after much hard work amongst the Gurindji people - including long rides in the outback on a humble motorbike - he began to make exciting breakthroughs in understanding these remote people's historical stories. Mino never ceased to be amazed that the Gurindji people had enabled his dream to come true.

As a somewhat rebellious youth, Mino was pleased to get away from some of the expectations of Japanese culture. As a talented young man, he was heading towards life as an economist or a businessman. However, rather than gaining wealth in these fields, Dr Hokari soon found himself sitting on desert ground, listening in a respectful fashion to Gurindji teachers, learning their language, and collaborating with their elders as equals. Mino was willing to sit down and live alongside these Indigenous people - fellow historians as he called them- in remote areas of northern Australia. Although not seeking and even skeptical of religious beliefs, Dr Hokari was excited to be invited to watch their ceremonies and to be taught and mentored by their leading philosophers and historians.

One of Mino's main teachers was affectionately known as 'Old Jimmy'. During his illness, Mino often looked at that photo of his 'number one' teacher, that old Gurinji man who seemed to know the full extent of Mino's mission even before he did. The Gurindji people had been pleased to have a young Japanese man in their midst. They believed their country had called Mino there so he would take their stories and their messages back to Japan and to other Asian nations. Although Dr Hokari published his innovative writing in both Australia and Japan, it is significant that his first book, Radical Oral History, is to be published in Japan and to reach the Japanese speaking people of the world first.

Mino's light-hearted sense of humour made him popular in any company, whether among leading scholars or Gurinji elders. Determined to fulfill his dreams and accepting his given destiny to take the Gurinji story back to Japan, Mino worked in a determined and conscientious fashion even until the very last days before his passing.

Minoru Hokari learnt how to communicate across multiple languages, across multiple cultures, and across many historical trajectories. Yet he never lost his sense of fun or his humility. Here are the last paragraphs of his thesis, which was called 'Cross-Culturalizing History: Journey to the Gurindji Way of Historical Practice'.

'I feel that I have been writing a long letter to whoever you are, reader. I wanted to share with you how challenging but enjoyable it is to perform cross-cultural practice. I also wanted to share with you how apparently impossible but still possible it is to 'communicate over the gap'. Above all, I wanted to share with you the teachings from the Gurindji country. Now, I post it to you - writer is vulnerable at this moment.

It is up to you whether you shift your being fully into the Gurindji historical reality (if you think you can), or firmly reject it. An alternative choice is, as I have been struggling through this thesis, trying to find a way of being 'cross-cultural'. I believe cross-cultural practice, by definition, cannot avoid the risk of destabilising one's own cultural framework. Otherwise, what is the point of calling it 'cross-cultural'?

I threw a petal.
Let's wait for the bang.

Minoru Hokari

Prof. Ann McGrath
The Australian National University