A Thread To Weave

George Chale Watson
George Chale Watson, complete with a long beard, in the foreground of the photograph with other Queensland Surveyors.

A challenge when writing an autobiography is identifying a place to begin. When I run my Lived Experience courses I provide participants with a number of exercises to help them tap into the vast reservoir of memories that each of us has.

Invariably a single thread materializes, long enough to begin weaving. The writing of George Chale Watson, my Great Grandfather provides a thread I am repeatedly urged to pick up.

It feels like he is demanding that I acknowledge the extent to which his thinking has been passed down to me. As I stand in his shoes for a moment  I understand why I have been driven to establish collectives, to give so freely. It is as if I am re-experiencing fragments of his memory.

The Bancroft Manor and Estate

The Woolloongabba Exemplars commune was on the western shore of Lake Weyba amidst the now rural residential area of Doonan. In 1894, about 200 people, led by a deeply religious land surveyor, George Chale Watson, (Heather Blakey’s Great Grandfather) established this socialist utopia where everything would be owned collectively, and each would work for their common good.

Taller Leñateros is Mexico’s first and only Tzotzil Maya book- and papermaking collective. Founded in 1975 by the Mexican-American poet Ambar Past, the workshop is dedicated to documenting and disseminating the endangered Tzotzil language, culture, and oral history. Read Jessica Vincents piece about this wonderful collective at Atlas Obscura.

“I hadn’t been walking long before I spotted an unusual sign outside a sad-looking, graffitied colonial house: a black-and-white etching of an ancient Maya riding a bicycle, wearing an enormous feathered headdress that fluttered in the wind behind him. Next, to it, a handwritten…

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