From the Souks of Marrakech and the Wandjina Gods: How Travel Writing Transforms Our Visions of the Other

By Twila Yates Papay.

Published by The Diversity Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Lost in the souks of Marrakech, emerging into the closed bazaar, hearing vendors shouting in Arabic–that story of fear in isolation I have frequently told. Then everything changed. It was Sydney, 2006, and I chatted with students who feared a certain section of the city. “Arabs there might do anything!” one exclaimed. Blood running cold, I focused on my first exchange with an Arab inside the souk, the fascination of two individuals laughing over the sale of a blue and gold kaftan.
This is a story about travel writing, the space it leaves for reflection to deepen the journey. In Sydney a new truth arose for me: stories themselves change over time. Seared into place, they nonetheless shift as the traveler’s perspective deepens. Both my travel writing and my teaching were transformed in the Australian culture of many identities struggling to be one. There white Australian novelists challenged their place in a stolen land, while aborigines struggled to convey alternative ways of knowing. Complicated stories underscored the search for reconciliation. And I found a powerful commitment to diversity in an elementary school where learning encompassed the joys of sharing otherness.
And then my own stories changed, reaching for a sense of tribe and a form of multiculturalism cheerfully inclusive in practice as well as intent. My previous Australian journals had to be reassessed, meanings all remade. Suddenly Broome and Kangaroo Island and the Kimberley were peopled, not just with ancient Wandjina creator gods, but also with fellow travelers and locals I had ignored in my writings of place. Back in my own travel classes, I have new ways of thinking to share. And all the stories change. Through illustrations from my own transformed writing, this article demonstrates that the place begets the stories, while our reflective voices reinterpret the texts.

Keywords: Alien, Australia Studies, Broome Western Australia, Creative Nonfiction, Globalization, Identity, Kangaroo Island South Australia, Kimberley Western Australia, Marrakech, Multiculturalism, Reconciliation, Teaching Travel Writing, Travel, Travel Writing

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp.183-192. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 753.068KB).

Dr. Twila Yates Papay

Professor of English, Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, USA

Featured as a “master teacher” in Ken Macrorie’s Twenty Teachers, Dr. Papay has published and spoken on topics as diverse as travel writing, autobiography, science fiction, composition theory and pedagogy, portfolio assessment, collaboration, and future writing. Though the focus of much of her work has been in personal writing and creative non-fiction, she integrates literary and language study with writing pedagogy and service learning. An avid traveler, she spent her first sabbatical journeying and journaling her way around the world, reading travel novels and accounts. Another sabbatical was spent in Africa, where she journeyed widely, taught and assisted in Writing Center development at the University of the Western Cape, offered workshops for other Cape Town institutions, and photographed more animals up close than she had envisioned in her wildest safari dreams. A recent adventure, her fourth journey through Australia, entailed interviewing women writers around the country, volunteering at an experimental elementary school in Sydney, exploring aboriginal sites, and visiting remote locations in The Kimberley.

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