Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save The World

Tyson Yunkaporta

Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save The World
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Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save The World

Tyson Yunkaporta

This remarkable book is about everything from echidnas to evolution, cosmology to cooking, sex and science and spirits to Schrödinger’s cat.

Tyson Yunkaporta looks at global systems from an Indigenous perspective. He asks how contemporary life diverges from the pattern of creation. How does this affect us? How can we do things differently?

Sand Talk
provides a template for living. It’s about how lines and symbols and shapes can help us make sense of the world. It’s about how we learn and how we remember. It’s about talking to everybody and listening carefully. It’s about finding different ways to look at things.

Most of all it’s about Indigenous thinking, and how it can save the world.

‘It was certainty that drove a bulldozer through the oldest and deepest philosophic statement on earth at Burrup Peninsula. Sand Talk offers no certainties and Tyson Yunkaporta is not a bulldozer driver. This is a book of cultural and philosophic intrigue. Read it.‘ Bruce Pascoe, author of Dark Emu

‘Radical ideas, bursting with reason.’ Tara June Winch


Tyson Yunkaporta’s Sand Talk is an extraordinary reading experience. It’s both philosophical and practical, and underpinned by a compassionate yet realistic humanity. At the core of Sand Talk is a deep respect for Indigenous Knowledge, to which long-term thinking is fundamental. As Yunkaporta demonstrates, a central principle of Indigenous Knowledge and learning paradigms is looking back and recognising patterns from the past, then learning from them. That’s an extreme simplification due to the length of this review, but as Yunkaporta convincingly argues, it is this kind and calibre of thinking that is profoundly lacking in many societies today, including in Australia, and the damage wrought upon our world in its absence is abundantly evident.

Yunkaporta writes with a clear-eyed sense of his own perspective, flaws and past failures. An academic, an artist, and much more besides, language is important to him. Like many of Australia’s First Peoples, he has a complex identity and history, and he writes, ‘I often don’t get to decide what I call myself.’ Throughout Sand Talk, he carefully shares stories of life-changing ‘yarns’ – a term he defines precisely early on – with people he has met on his extensive research travels.

Sand Talk is an engaging and singular introduction to the elements of Indigenous Knowledge, thinking, and methods of communication that Yunkaporta is in a position to share. It’s an opportunity to recognise these concepts and their history, and a generous invitation to incorporate these methods into non-Indigenous thinking for the benefit of all. It’s an unforgettable book, rich with ideas and inspiring in its conviction in the human capacity for personal change and growth. Open it to any page, read and enjoy. You’ll never think about your hands, Dante, Trump or emus the same way again.

Elke Power is the editor of Readings Monthly.

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