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The Bauhinia Tree: The Life of Kankawa Nagarra Olive Knight
With deep roots in the Kimberley region, Olive Knight shares her story of growing up with the Gooniyandi and Walmatjarri peoples of north-western Australia. As her father was of mixed blood, she was nearly killed on the day of her birth, as was customary for such children in her community. Thankfully she was spared by an elder, and would follow her own path, full of hardship as she moved from mission to mission. She eventually found love and fulfilment, following her late husband Jim Bieundurry’s passion for rights, becoming a respected translator and community leader. After Jim’s death, Olive’s singing and songwriting opened unexpected worlds of opportunity. From early days in mission gospel choirs to finding her true voice in the country and western, and blues music of the day, Olive’s talent as a singer eventually led to collaborations with other artists and performers, many of whom sought her unique voice and ability to translate songs into her traditional language. In 2011, Olive was invited to sing as part of Hugh Jackman’s Back on Broadway production and has continued to perform with him across the world.
Olive’s spirit and compassion continue to inspire as she speaks openly about the challenges of adopting young children in her mature years, and how she hopes to bring greater awareness and prevention efforts about substance abuse, particularly foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, within Aboriginal communities in Australia. Olive’s devotion to the preservation and sharing of Aboriginal language and culture, and her love of music and poetry, shine in this remarkable memoir.
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Praise for The Bauhinia Tree:
Inspirational and thought-provoking, The Bauhinia Tree brims with hope and culture as the reader learns about Olive and her people. We need more books like this. PHIL TUCAK, THE POST
While the material has been edited to remove hesitations and interventions, the oral quality has been retained. The conversational style is intimate and engaging; the cumulative effect is of a generous, pragmatic woman. JOSEPHINE TAYLOR, AUSTRALIAN BOOK REVIEW