TRACKER DECEMBER 2011
Digging up the dirty side of green spaces.
I don’t call myself an Australian, unless I am forced to write it on my inbound card to a destination I’m travelling to. I’m uncomfortable with that term, that imposition, largely because it is an expectation that I subscribe to a system and cultural set of principals that continue to deny to my cultural set of principals as a Nyikina person.
I use the terms Aboriginal or Indigenous for convenience, not for any semblance of an identity, these are after all, heritage brands from the colonial system that were again, an imposition on a cultural set of principals of all the countries that comprise this concept of “Australia”. I try to fly over these semantics as I recount the words of my Grandmother that “people are just too lazy to learn the names of our tribes”. In reality and wisdom, she is right.
However, you won’t see me trying to assert these positions over the top of another’s belief, because that’s what we have sectional religion and factional politics for, I just simply try to get on with the business of creating positive outcomes for world class artists who happen to be blessed with cultural continuum in it’s myriad of form. But I chose to highlight the above two paragraphs as my framing statements for what is currently underway against my core business, the Indigenous arts.
You see, we are in a conundrum, with nominal Government support and an overwhelming inequity of value and respect for our artists and cultures across the board we are and remain survivalist. Within survivalist spaces, we are given the option of sponsorships and partnerships that align with “brand Indigenous” to “further agendas”. Our Indigenous events now stand accused and in the direct line of vitriol from non-Indigenous environmental groups and individuals who are utilising social media as their platform to begin the movement to boycott our events or “occupy” them in protest.
If they saw their contradiction in threats to boycott and occupy Indigenous country, stolen and occupied since 1788, by THEIR ancestors, then surely they be embarrassed by their white privilege talking? Doesn’t seem to be the case. The contradiction and hypocrisy I see knowing that the bike they ride for the environment, or the car they drive, or the clothes they wear, or the house the live in or that computer they've used to flame up the threads was made using technology that comes directly from source they fight against. Again, teems and steams with white privilege.
Deeper hypocrisy lies in the fact that those roads they drive on, that path they walk on, that shop they purchase their organic produce from, the cityscape or rural town that defines the State and region in which they live is a testament to the desecration of the environment and Indigenous culture. How many species of Indigenous flora and fauna have already been decimated in the great land grab? How many sacred sites and significant sites and Songlines lay buried under ‘Occupation Australia’? How many waterways tainted, poisoned, polluted, destroyed?
That the bottom feeders of the green movements dare turn toward the Indigenous communities and threaten to boycott or ‘occupy’ and harm positive and safe Indigenous spaces makes their bloody minded, dial-a-cause minded approach no better than the companies they despise. We're pretty much damned if we don't damned if we do by a system they forced us to operate in, then condemn us for doing so.
Perspective is worth considering here as people judge from their comfort zone, their privilege, their reality. Just recently I sent a web-link of West-Papuan Indigenous community members who put their faces to camera over their occupation by the Indonesian military. The response to this link was “isn’t that dangerous to be seen on camera and be spreading this around online?”. My reply was “well if you’re an Elder who has already cut the tips of your fingers off in absolute despair at the murder of your son, and have almost lost hope, but agree to participate in a film to shed light on the situation, then what is their definition of danger and is this the same as yours?”
So it’s perspective that is inciting ill considered acts, coupled with naivety, contradiction and hypocrisy. The call through the social media networks to co-opt to their cause is about their potential lifestyle and comfort being infringed upon. If it wasn’t then where were they when our Elders had to lay in front of bulldozers to stop the mining in my country? Where is their voice in support of Mukaty against the nuclear waste dump? Too far from their privilege and reality to care it seems, unless there’s some celebrity in it.
These individuals offer up no real discourse, or solutions. Instead they have another platform unto which to exert their supremacy – by denying this is not a race based platform but an environmental one. The following quote suggests otherwise.
Quote: “What you think just because the colour of you skin is different that the rules don't apply to you when you are effectively supporting those who are fucking up Mother Earth. You are full of shit...custodians of the land...what until you get the smell of some easy money and then you sell her out to the highest bidder..fuckin disgusting absolutely disgusting and they should be ashamed.” (Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMHn1T0fkMM)
It has been said that those who want to help us the most, often harm us the most. In the current rationale of these gung-ho environmentalists, this is exactly the case.
From my Nyikina perspective ALL money is dirty money. A subsidy from the Government is no different from the money from a partner or sponsor, it’s all still capitalism, its all still historically tainted, its still all proceeds of crime, it all stands as mutually exclusive to sophisticated systems of land management practise, culture, Lore, moiety.
There is nil difference from where I stand, so if it means being in a position to grow opportunities and pathways for Indigenous artists and the sector as a whole, then show me that money. I will pay my artists better, I will move them closer to their dreams and aspirations, I will run successful events and create positive and safe spaces for humanity where we have forums to discuss these issues, discourses and debates from an Indigenous world view.
Bottomline, economic reality is far different from their often middle-class existence and yet these individuals choose to disrespect Elders and custodians by name and aim squarely misguided potential campaigns that could ultimately destroy the events altogether. I think that is very revealing as to just how "aligned" we really are - that the forked tongue is alive and well in "reconciliation" - that this concept is indeed on “their” terms.
Without critical debate on the bigger issue of the way in which the arts are supported generally, Indigenous Artists will suffer and Indigenous events will suffer, both soft targets that will never divert the ambition of the financier. Divisions will emerge and opportunities will remain further stifled for the Indigenous Community.
So I suggest to all those blindly following the destructive rant of a small few to think long and hard the next time you come into the Indigenous arts space shouting “you clearly don’t care about your country or culture or spirits” and “this is not about race, its about the environment” or “this is not about the present, its about the future generations”. This irrational thinking is getting in the way of those who understand the complexities that abound, especially in relations to Indigenous spaces. Where's the line of common sense here?
I am calling for calm.
Rather than boycott and occupy, why don’t they turn the spectacle into a positive outcome for the Indigenous arts community. Support our artists, buy a ticket to our events, donate the money you would’ve used in occupation, lobby your “ethical” friends to be partners, don’t assume your reality is everyone else’s and listen.