The indigenous imitation game

Republished from Bill Kerr’s blog

“Man is a creature who makes pictures of himself and then comes to resemble the pictures”
– Iris Murdoch, Existentialists and Mystics, p. 75

“the magical power of replication, the image affected by what it is an image of, wherein the representation shares in or takes power from the represented”
– Francesca Merlin (1998), p. 150 quoting Michael Taussig (1993)

Most of us, white fellas, have images of the indigenous “problem”. Some of us even have images of the indigenous “solution”.

Ever since Whitlam, 45 years ago now, indigenous self determination has been on the table. The indigenous will determine their own future. Old style, immoral, coercive assimilation into white culture will be a shameful thing of the past.

Into this power vacuum step indigenous thought leaders who map out the requirements for self determination.

Is this real? Or is it more an imitation of an image of what aboriginality is meant to be. An attractive delusion for the guilt ridden white middle classes down south. (Please, please someone fix this problem, this terrible shame in our nation’s history)

The reality is that aboriginal culture was never a unity but divided into more than 100 different tribes with differing language and cultures. Those different cultures are now positioned in a complex limbo somewhere in between their old partly forgotten, partly degraded traditions and western culture, the good, the bad and the ugly.

“Representations of Aboriginality as made most powerfully by others come to affect who and what Aborigines consider themselves to be. The imitative relation as lived out in Australia has rested on the assumption that Aboriginal cultural production continues to be autonomous from what previously sought to encompass or displace it. Further, the relation often requires from Aborigines demonstrations of the autonomy and long standing nature of what is seen of their cultural production.”
– Francesca Merlin (1998)

Reference:
Caging the Rainbow by Francesca Merlin (1998)

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