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The Nyoongar Shakespeare, Alf Taylor 18/11/1945–29/07/2023

Wed, Aug 16, 2023

The Nyoongar Shakespeare  Alf Taylor 18/11/1945–29/07/2023oongar-shakespeare-alf-taylor-18-11-1945-29-07-2023

Alfred Charles Taylor: Friend, author, creator, poet, comedian, moorditj Nyoongar Shakespeare, Magabala muse, matador, survivor and inmate of New Norcia Mission, an unadulterated work-in-progress man who texted only in CAPS and who never turned his hearing aids up (let alone on), Little Black Devil, West Coast Eagles tragic and Bony Rooster.

Alf was one of Magabala’s first authors. He released his first title Singer Songwriter in 1992, followed by Winds in 1994. His poetry reappeared in Rimfire (2000) and he penned Long time now (2001), replete with memorable characters like Toby, Brenda, Uncle Dollar and Auntie Flo. In 2021 Alf published his memoire God, the Devil and Me, about his childhood in the infamous New Norcia Mission. The book had taken him almost 30 years to write and was a darkly comedic and heartbreaking account. The book was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. He followed this with Cartwarra or what? in 2022, which was highly commended in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards.

Many have listened to Alf over the years and many sat with him when he spoke in the language of short stories and poetry; with an acerbic wit that captured Nyoongah life, working class struggle and Stolen Generation heartache. Without Toby, Bony Rooster, The Little Black Devil, a childhood identity crisis (thinking he was Spanish and then thinking he was related to Shakespeare) Alf would never have written. And we are richer for it.

Alf has taught this world much about life, love and friendship as well as the timelessness of a story’s journey. This is despite government and religion telling him he didn’t belong. Alf often talked about his mother, his family, his characters who were real, the groves at the mission where he would hide, the bush that grew him up and he unfailingly pointed out the absurdity of everything. 

In the gaps between greatness, occasionally an individual comes along who captures the duality of goodness and despair, life and death. Alf is the confluence of all these things. A breathing linguistic phenomenon and contradiction. A Nyoongar matador and child of the Franco revolution (at New Norcia, nevertheless). 

We all have been privileged to share a small part of Alf’s life through his writings. We have been gifted pieces of him and momentarily glimpsed into his humanity. Time is precious and life, no matter how long we live for, is short. Alf, the Nyoongar Spanish Matadorian Shakespeare is all the good things in between words and worlds. 

You only take what you give in this life and Alf has gifted us his humanity. We will cherish all that is Alf because in the end, it is part of our DNA, this storytelling, as well as the braiding together of ephemeral connection in all our lives.

— Rachel Bin Salleh, Magabala Books Publisher