16 February 2016

Spotlight On – Hannah Donnelly


With Blak & Bright: The Victorian Indigenous Literature Festival just around the corner, Express Media spoke to Hannah Donnelly, Creator of Sovereign Trax Indigenous music website and co-editor of the Sovereign Apocalypse zine.

Don’t miss Hannah in Fresh Blak Writers on Saturday February 20 and her coverage of the festival as Blak & Bright’s Blogger in Residence.

What kind of writing do you do?

Most of my creative writing is speculative fiction or cli-fi. I imagine the future post climate apocalypse through a utopian return (to country). I also do some reviews and music culture writing. That’s the kinda blog writing I call internet writing. For me internet writing is a shifting lingo of street, pop shorthand and black feminisms. It’s the digital chat room vibes that I grew up. The gen that says TG mid convo instead of actually saying true gawd.

What is your favourite medium for communicating stories? And why?

Self-publishing platforms on the internet have been my preferred space in writing. Not only on the internet but handmade zines and other small collaborative projects. RN it feels better to be collaborating with other people as I’m starting out. You feel more fierce and unapologetic with mob by your side. I’ve already started the personal project writing some type of novella through the bloodlines and see how I go.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko. It’s got some deadz language that mob can relate too like mooki ones. I only just started it though, currently one chapter deep. Before that I read Heat and Light by Ellen Van Neerven and them mangrove plant people spirits were really something to phone home about. For real, I was halfway through the book and I left it on a plane visiting my then boontied up sister and I had to get my mum to give me $$ to buy the book again cause I didn’t wanna wait til next payday.

What inspires your work? Where do you find this inspiration?

Stories, yarns and imagining futures inspires my writing. If I position my writing in the future I can undo colonisation bit by bit. Blowing up dams and diverting cultural flows with my imagination. This requires personal reclamation. I slowly lost sovereign pieces of myself to colonisation and I’m constantly picking them up and putting them firmly back inside.

Tell us a little about your blog, Sovereign Trax.

The sovtrax blog started a bit randomly. One day a Sapmi friend from Finland was like, where can I listen to all the Aboriginal music from your country? It made me think about decolonising the way I consume music. Do I listen to my own mob enough?  There are mad community radio stations out there but there was an online gap. Sovtrax became a way of accessing artists who self-publish music online.

Sovereign Trax transformed from a simple soundcloud account to a subversive online space to encourage listening to our own music in an environment that speaks to our collective stories, identities and resistance. It’s also a space to promote the visibility of our artists via soundcloud, social medz and write-ups.

Tell us a little about you zine, Sovereign Apocalypse.

This zine was formed through yarns about future imaginings of total indigenous sovereignty. A space for story tellers, poets and artists to contribute how they imagine sovereignty in the future would look if the world was flipped through an apocalypse. A zine is a very grassroots form because it is independent and doesn’t rely on a profit. It allows you to say you don’t rely on success in a western sense. Instead the thoughts and ideas involved in the process and other mob wanting to contribute is the success.

This zine allowed a space for my writing to take back the colonial myths and romanticise our future selves. I think zine’s are a great format to enable people to develop their own practices while still producing something people can hold and stick their nose in to. I’ve already thought about a Sov Lit Zine for the next project.

What does the word ‘sovereign’ mean to you?

That’s one of the biggest questions you could probably ask mob. My thoughts about sovereignty are around control over our histories, futures and identities as a collective people. It means different things to different people particularly through the veil of colonisation our governance structures have shifted so much. It might be control over lands and territories or title to land, or our right to practice culture. But I like to think of sovereignty in future tense. What if, just for a moment, we forgot about the logistics of getting sovereignty. I know that’s impractical, but what if we let ourselves dream and imagine that future what would it mean to you? Sovereignty and return to country could be literal, metaphorical and spiritual at the same time. To me, sovereignty means Indigenous knowledges and reclaiming the steps leading up to returning to country.

 Hannah Donnelly is a Wiradjuri woman from New South Wales who grew up on Gamilaroi country. Creator of Sovereign Trax Indigenous music website and co-editor of the Sovereign Apocalypse zine, Hannah’s personal work experiments with cli-fi and future imaginings of Indigenous responses to climate change.