Spanning five decades and as many continents, the memoir “Hippy Days, Arabian Nights” by Katherine Boland is a funny, moving and compelling story of a woman whose extraordinary life is without could-or-should-haves.
From the get-go, Australian artist Katherine Boland has grabbed life by the throat in pursuit of her heart and her dreams. This is the story of one gutsy, feisty and creative woman.
Of interest to Far South Coast readers, first half of the book is set in Brogo, Bega and Bermagui, with additional specific mentions of Bega Valley Shire, Brogo Community Hall, Candelo Markets, Bournda National Park, Mumbulla Mountain, Wallaga Lake and Tathra.
Now she is making a return to the coast, planning a number of author talks including at Bermagui, Batemans Bay and Tura Beach.
Katherine came to Australia as a child in 1961 with her family on the “10-pound-pom scheme”. She grew up on the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria.
Her father couldn't make the adjustment and took the family back to the UK, then Spain, but returned to the Gippsland Lakes in rural Victoria where alcoholism and depression led to him committing suicide.
Years later, enrolled in art school at RMIT and living in a share-flat in bohemian St Kilda, Katherine embraces the counterculture movement.
After dropping out of art school in the mid 1970s, she left the city to live an alternative lifestyle on the Far South Coast of New South Wales for almost three decades
Like so many of her student generation, she and her boyfriend dropped out of their studies to join a hippy community. They move to the Far South Coast of NSW to live the dream – mud bricks and mung beans – where Katherine’s rollicking tale unfolds.
Katherine’s husband John ran for seat of Bega and she also started the Southern Women’s Group, which was located in Bega town centre.
Her mother moved to Bermagui when their daughter was born, and Katherine spent weekends there, before her mother moved onto their Brogo property.
Also prominent in the book is Aragunnu Beach, Bermagui, where the family and community holidayed in summer. The book also details the Bega High School abductions in 1997.
When a bushfire ends her 27-year marriage in an entirely unpredictable way, she returns to Melbourne where she launches her art career and re-launches her life.
On the back of a sell-out exhibition called “On Fire”, Katherine embarks on a new life of overseas scholarships and residencies, culminating with an invitation to Egypt from the Egyptian Ministry of Culture.
It’s there where she falls madly in love with a young translator, 27 years her junior. A six-year long-distance relationship ensues, despite his family's hostility. A tale of a wild and wonderful romance, doomed from the start, unfurls.
Age difference, cultural differences - especially around gender expectations - the Australian government’s refusal to grant visas to young Egyptian men and later, the descent of Egypt into political instability and civil chaos, prevent her from visiting Egypt and him from leaving.
Hippy Days is an honest, authentic and delightful insight into hippy life, as well as revealing the darker side for some in that community: the drug abuse, child neglect and domestic violence.
Arabian Nights is a powerful and moving reflection of her relationship, her reservations, their joys, their deep and mutually felt love, and their diametrically opposed ways of seeing the world, and relationships.
Hippy Days, Arabian Nights is an enthralling and moving memoir, one that keeps the reader amused, frustrated, indignant at times, but above all, inspired. Katherine is one of those wonderfully rare and brilliant women, who jump in, feet first.
For the last 15 years, she has been pursuing a career as an artist in Melbourne. She has exhibited throughout Australia and overseas and has been the recipient of numerous art prizes, grants and scholarships.
Her artwork is included in corporate, public and private collections in Australia, Europe, Asia and the US. Hippy Days, Arabian Nights is her first literary project. It was long listed in 2014 for the Mslexia Literary Award for Memoir in the United Kingdom. She lives in Melbourne. She is at www.katherineboland.com
The Katherine Boland author talks begin at the Tura Marrang Library and Community Centre at Tura Beach on Friday, May 12 from 10.30am to 11.30am.
She then will speak at the Bermagui Community Centre on Saturday, May 13 from 10.30am to 11.30am. And finally at the Batemans Bay Public Library on Monday, May 15 from 2pm to 3pm.