Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta

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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Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World

Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World

Tyson Yunkaporta

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