Live to Live - Advocating for the positive.
Lately I’ve been paying close attention to the way in which Indigenous Australia is measured and recorded. The catalyst of this awareness for me is an extension of my journey to understand and make sense of why there is little support given to or acknowledgement of the contemporary Indigenous performing arts in Australia. In understanding this climate, I’ve had to broaden my scope to arrive at what should be a reality check for us all. I’m looking at the landscape of statistics.
Its no wonder most of us blakfullas live to die, I mean for fuk sake, through statistical measurements we are constantly told we are sick, deficient, illiterate, incarcerated, about to be incarcerated, have a low life expectancy, malnourished, welfare dependent drop-outs - doomed doomed D-O-O-M-E-D!!!!!
Most of us buy into this too. I mean its almost unescapable. Death talk and sick talk is at the forefront of our Community with conversations swirling around who’s got what ailment, what chemical cocktail/lab experiment we’re taking, who’s low, who’s about to go and what funerals are on this week. And we joke about it too! Recently, I attended an arts intensive where a talented and well respected Indigenous artist made a comment about Blakfullas and superannuation, the brunt of which was well why have superannuation for our mob because with our low life-expectancy we all are going to DIE before we can make a claim. People this is too much, it’s a plague within our own communities and we are becoming statistics within the statistic!!!
Look to be very clear, I am not trying to whitewash the fact that there are real issues within our communities, but what I would argue is that this force-feeding of everything that’s wrong with us is a legitimised form of psychological oppression. Simply put, if you tell an individual their whole life they are ugly, then what do you expect is the outcome? So if you tell a community how we are doomed our whole lives, don’t you think there is a clear line directly into the issues that are created? That issues ARE created from this thinking? This legitimised oppression influences so much in our present environment and can be heard in the views espoused by our leadership who place little value on the contemporary, the living or the positive. This is backed up by band-aid fixes, the preservation mentality and the culturally embalmed Nation we are fast becoming.
So here’s a thought. What say we record and measure our good news, our positive statistics and our social change mechanisms? What say we measure these equally alongside all the negatives so that what we are presenting is a balanced view of our Indigenous society? What say we tell the real story and in doing so show the empowering way forward rather than keep the cycle of oppression hovering overhead?
Within these positive measurements, you’ll find the Indigenous arts. Presently largely under-recorded save for the Sotheby’s slant on a dollar driven view on Indigenous visual arts, but here is where a real and tangible social change measurements can be drawn. For our sector we know that Indigenous performing arts has an enormous reach and positive impact in Indigenous communities. Our performing arts industry is drawn from a culturally laden foundation refined and enhanced since time immemorial. It’s where we’ve successfully told our story through performances that not only kept culture alive, but told of the past, present and the future. Our wellbeing exists within Indigenous arts as Indigenous arts and Culture are one and the same.
This shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone right? Because in the Western world we have terms such as “artistic license”, comedians who can take the piss without fear of retribution and a clearly documented history of the social change outcomes of the mainstream arts – Shakespeare, The Beatles, Warhol. Shiit you can go take a course on any of these artistic icons to understand mainstream culture and the affects of art in social change.
But as the Indigenous Community, what do we have to look toward and how do we evolve our thinking?
Well here’s but one example.
On YIRRA YAAKIN’s recent issue based tour of the Goldfields region of Western Australia, not only did we clock 7,000kms and never cross the border but we exceeded audience targets by 109%. In addition to this, we grew our Aboriginal attendance to 82%. So in whitefulla terms this is by far an example of best practise, its measurable, its statistical and its valuable. Surely that’s a positive story that commands to be told. For the Indigenous community, our measurement is found within the in-tangible, the anecdotal. What meant the most to us was knowing that we performed to a community who had no concept of contemporary theatre and that their first experience was Indigenous determined, or maximum security inmate who attended our remand centre show and emphasised in no uncertain terms the importance of our play so that our mob don’t end up like him with no future and no hope, or knowing that one of the cast had lived her own harrowing version of the story and in performing she was self-healing and living testimony to why this story needed to be told. Again this is legitimate, measurable and valuable.
So Australian Bureau of Statistics, the next time you have a moment free and are wanting to capture important snapshots from within the Indigenous Community to paint a realistic portrait, then think outside the square and give the Indigenous arts community a call. 1800-Live-to-Live.