Gija Jumulu: Arboreal Ecocriticism and the Australian Boab
The idea of arboreal ecocriticism – or dendrocriticism – reflects the burgeoning interest in vegetal life within the Environmental Humanities. Concerned with arboreal texts of diverse kinds, dendrocriticism can be understood as a tree-focused mode of environmental, literary and cultural analysis. This article theorises dendrocriticism in relation to the boab (Adansonia gregorii), a large tree endemic to Northern Australia. Narrating boab subjectivity and corporeality, the arboreal texts discussed here include Alec Choate’s poem “Prison Tree, Derby” (1978), Bill Neidjie’s verse narrative Story About Feeling (1989), Tim Winton’s novel Dirt Music (2001) and Veronica Lake’s poem “Boab Tree” (2012), the latter written from the perspective of Gija Jumulu, a massive boab relocated two-thousand miles from the Kimberley to Perth. In response to global forest decline, prospective areas of dendrocritical focus include, inter alia, the traditional botanical knowledge of indigenous people, scientific studies of vegetal cognition and the limits of dendrocentrism – the privileging of trees over other plants.