Friday, June 22, 2007

Back from the Dreaming

Back in England to hear the latest news from Australia: John Howard has decided to ban sales of alcohol and pornography in Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory. By all means have some sort of prohibition if it's going to solve a problem - particularly if it's related to child pornography and child abuse - but don't racialise that prohibition! What makes him think Aboriginal people are more likely to be corrupted by malign influences than white people? Racism, that's what.

Interestingly, through my four days at the Dreaming Festival, I had precisely one half of lager. The atmosphere, although it was celebratory, and at times wild, just didn't seem to need alcoholic fuelling. The culture alone was enough.

I'm intending to write quite extensively about this Festival elsewhere, so here's just a few cultural highlights and recommendations:

Ngapartji Ngapartji: somewhere between a lesson in indigenous language, a sing-along and a tragic re-telling of Aboriginal history, this is an amazing project which has been developed between a Scott Rankin's activist company Big hArt, the actor Trevor Jamieson (another of Bev Webb's boys) and the Pitjantjatjara people from around Alice Springs. A rare example of community work of the most valuable kind which really does turn into the highest quality theatre. And there's a language website too.

Sunset to Sunrise: a beautiful and simple film by Allan Collins, in which an elder spends a night in the bush with his two sons, and talks about the changes he's seen during his lifetime, and the decline of the old culture.

Bigotbri Ladies: every prejudice caricatured. I saw a great set they did about the food at the Festival - which was intercultural and so not to their liking....

Indigie Femme: two women, one Navajo, one Polynesian, who have beautiful voices and sing about a better world.

A Sister's Love: a really amazing film by the festival's director Rhoda Roberts, which deals with the murder of her sister Lois. Aside of the personal tragedy, which is very intense, it's also an extraordinary indictment of the ongoing racism in Australian society - a society which assumes that when an Aboriginal person disappears, they have just "gone walkabout".

This year's Festival fell on the 40th anniversary of the 1967 referendum: the moment when the Aboriginal people were admitted as citizens of Australia. Prior to that, they were categorised as "flora and fauna". They may be acknowledged as human now - but there is still a very long way to go.

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