RMIT Gazette: Ten Minutes with Nayuka Gorrie

Naomi Johnson  

Image credit: Margot Tanjutco

The RMIT Gazette is a dynamic daily newspaper produced, published and distributed around Melbourne during the Emerging Writers’ Festival. We’ll publish the Gazette’s top stories online during the festival.

Kat Clarke took stage to introduce us to the event, with warm, open arms and a wide, contagious smile: “It’s really exciting to have Blak Writers’ Group and Emerging Writers’ Festival come together.”

Kat’s warmth spread throughout the gallery room; it felt like a family gathering. She then read a poem on “home”, where “the Bogong congregate”. Readings from Hannah Donnelly, Timmah Ball and Robbie Batzke followed.

Nayuka Gorrie closed the performance with strong satire: “I want decolonised soy flat whites”.

Satire aside, decolonial writing is a significant and emerging theme in Aus-lit. After the performance, Nayuka conversed with me, away from the bustling crowd, at a tall bar table.

We first spoke on the importance of groups such as Blak Writers’.

It’s important to have these groups for our own capacity building [and] to gain skills from our own mob; there’s something very empowering about that,” Nayuka revealed. “I’m a young black woman, it’s an exciting time to be writing. There are so many older people who are paving the path for us.”

Shuffling closer around the table, we moved onto how the Aus-lit scene could help hear more from Indigenous voices.

“More black editors,” Nayuka said. “Most things I’ve written have been edited by white people. That’s not inherently bad, but they have so much power. To have that in the hands of someone who understands my experience would change things.”

Nayuka also spoke about how “it’s a privilege to be edited” and uncovered that editors have failed to constructively critique her work in the past. “I get so mad when my shit goes online and it hasn’t been edited. Like, do you care about this? Are you telling me it was perfect? It’s not perfect. I can see a misplaced comma. If you respect my work, tell me how I can be better.”

Were her editors scared, lazy or, coming from white backgrounds, did they not understand how to edit her work? I agreed with Nayuka and my eyes were opened to a revelation; I do not know any editors who are people of colour.

“More black editors,” Nayuka reconfirmed. “And, just publish black people. Take a risk, if we are a risk. We’re brilliant!”

Nayuka disclosed that she writes for her community. “I [have] the language for experiences people have but didn’t realise; they had these feelings but didn’t have the language to explain it. I want them to love what I’m doing, or hate it, but [get them] thinking.”

And if her writing also convinces beneficiaries of settler colonialism to “think about things differently, that’s also really important”.

Nayuka doesn’t think her writing will “change the world on its own”. She sees it as “part of the work that many other black people do to fight” and “a way to archive where we’re at right now”.

Read more from the RMIT Gazette here.