‘You don’t know that country’: Mapping Space in Randolph Stow’s To the Islands

Catherine Noske


In 1959, while stationed in the Trobriand Islands as a Cadet Patrol Officer, Randolph Stow drew a mud-map in the back of his diary, coloured with red and green pastel. Titled ‘Forrest River Mission from Memory,’ it shows the layout of the Mission near Wyndham in the Kimberley, complete with rivers and tributaries, place names in two languages, a scale and a compass rose. This paper suggests that the drawing balances pride in precision of representation of the space with a sense of desire in remembering it across time and from a distance. This paper considers this act of mapping and compares it to the representations of space in Stow’s novel To the Islands (1958). It discusses the manoeuvres it highlights within Stow’s creative practice, and the tension it invokes in relation to his growing consciousness of his own settler-colonial subjectivity.


Archive; mapping; Randolph Stow; settler-colonial subjectivity.

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