My comic ‘Oracle Bones’ was published by The Massachusetts Review. It weaves together heroin in Cabramatta, a royal ritual for fortune telling, and the first evidence of written language.
The earliest evidence of language came from oracle bones discovered by Chinese farmers digging for ‘dragon bones’ to grind into medicine. A diviner carved questions into the oracle bones with a burning metal rod. The King read fortunes from how the bones cracked, and his prognostication was added to the bones and the bones burnt in a pit.
I used this history to reflect on my own community’s lost historical record and ritual of burning and injecting white crystal. I grew up in a working class migrant community with first generation kids in gangs in Australia’s heroin capital. If, like me, you managed to grasp some clue that you wanted to become an artist, there weren’t readily available mentors or audiences to guide and support your work.
If, like me, you managed to scramble and bumble your way into working as an artist and later in life had the opportunity to elevate voices from your community, you might turn around to find an entire generation of stories and artists that were sparsely recorded and lost to time. Young artists lost to gangs, drugs or, more ordinarily, mum and dad’s ushering you into stable office jobs. Trying to paint an accurate picture of our experiences is only further distorted by turning to ‘official’ records, because this history’s been told through the lense of hegemonic news and entertainment media, memoirs by lawyers and detectives and quotes from politicians with political interests.
I lament the loss of an entire generation of potential artistic expression and record. Not only of my own particular experience, but of any young migrant community and marginalised identities growing up without access to resources, a means to equally voice themselves and combating the same pressures to quiet their voices. It might be too late to excavate my own experience from beyond the ‘fiction’ category, but not to elevate and display today’s diverse, young marginalised migrant voices.