White Australian Author Reveals Latest Art Hoax

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Posted by Newsroom on March 14, 1997 at 15:42:17:

White Australian Author Reveals Latest Art Hoax

By Paul Tait

SYDNEY, March 13

A white Australian author who wrote an
award-winning novel and claimed to be an Aboriginal woman kidnapped as a
child and raised by a foster family is the latest hoax to rock the
nation's art community.

Leon Carmen, a 47-year-old Sydney man, on Thursday admitted he wrote "My
Own Sweet Time" under the name Wanda Koolmatrie, a part-Aboriginal woman
who was kidnapped as a child from outback South Australia state and raised
by foster parents in Adelaide.

The semi-autobiographical book won an Australian award for the best first
novel by a woman in 1995 and was used as a text for senior high school
examinations in 1996.

But the revelation has provoked more outrage among Aborigines who were
shocked last week to learn that prominent Aboriginal artist Eddie Burrup
was the fabrication of an elderly white woman.

Lydia Miller, arts director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Commission, Australia's peak Aboriginal body, described Carmen's work as
"trickery and deceit."

"It surprises me that non-indigenous people need indigenous people to
validate their existence," said Miller, who added she had accepted the
1995 award on Koolmatrie's behalf because she believed the explanation
that the author was overseas.

"If this writer...is claiming that they're doing it for altruistic
reasons, then they should return the money that they got from being so
deceitful. It's a cynical exercise," she said.

Carmen told The Daily Telegraph newspaper he had written the book because
he wanted to be published for the first time.

"I wanted to see a book on the shelf. I didn't care if it had my name on
it," he said.

Carmen's agent and co-conspirator, John Bayley, told the Telegraph they
had invented Koolmatrie because they thought publishers were not
interested in "white Anglo male" authors.

Carmen's mother, Lily Carmen, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation
radio she was surprised by her son's deception.

"He's always been pretty brainy, but I used to say to him you don't do
much with it. He never talks very much," she said.

Bayley said a sequel was given to Magabala Books, publishers of "My Own
Sweet Time," who would not publish it until they met Koolmatrie.

Bill Ashcroft, head of English literature at the University of New South
Wales, said Carmen had followed a long tradition of Australian writers who
used noms de plume.

Australia's top literary award, the Miles Franklin Award, is named in
honour of Stella Franklin, a female Australian author who wrote most of
her work using the male name of Miles Franklin.

White artist Elizabeth Durack, 81, was last week accused of stealing
indigenous culture when she revealed she had invented Eddie Burrup, an
Aboriginal farm worker who won acclaim for a broad portfolio of paintings,
photographs and writings.

In 1995, author Helen Darville admitted making up her family history to
match a book, written under the name Helen Demidenko, about the slaughter
of Ukrainian Jews during World War Two.

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