|Chapter 1:||Reading Post-Colonial Australia|
This is an iconic moment. It sets the tone of the novel as an opus of Australian settlement. But it is also a post-colonial moment because it considers with some irony the physical act of settlement and the implications of invasion, displacement, and colonization that dwell beyond the comprehension of the ordinary landholder. Stan Parker's mythic struggle with fire, flood, drought, his struggle with language and with God, is the story of the Australian imagination and its creation of a home in a place distinguished from any imperial heritage. The critical feature of the novel, however, is White's ironic interrogation of the country's secular nationalist mythology.
The story of the representation of Australian place is not a story of obvious political resistance; it is often subtle and transformative, almost always ambivalent, and, like White's novels, embedded in a reflexive post-colonial critique—a discourse of critical memory. It is a story in which the issue of representation itself becomes central. The Aboriginal artist Lin Onus indicates the subtlety of this contest over representation. The key feature of the Onus painting style could be called “metarepresentational.” His representations, particularly his representations of place, are about the process of representation itself. His “seeing” of place is always an investigation of seeing or at least a disruption of our seeing to uncover that ocularcentric ideology to which it is giving form. This is precisely what makes his hybridity transformative: it is multidimensional, operating as a constant field of interrogation. In order to take control of representation, he reveals the extent to which the conventions of seeing have been naturalized.
Onus’ painting Twice Upon a Time (1992) “writes back” to the Arcadian dimension of nineteenth-century art in a mimicry so tranquil that it seems completely to lack the “menace” Homi Bhabha saw central to colonial mimicry. The painting seems to reproduce too lovingly the conventions of colonial representation. But it is the metarepresentational aspect of the painting that provides the “menace” of disruption and subversiveness. We find here an interrogation of the nationalist Arcadia that itself had resisted the ideology of imperial representation. A post-colonial reading thus reads the process of engagement and detachment, one that is itself historically