Please choose one of the following questions and answer in essay:
1. ‘The radical forms of pro-Indigenous activism that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s were more effective in achieving Indigenous rights than the moderate activism that came before it.’ Do you agree? Why/why not?
2. Can Native Title be postcolonial? Answer with reference to at least one case study of a Native Title ruling, agreement, or piece of legislation.
3. ‘The emergence of an Aboriginal middle class in Australia in the last two to three decades has gone largely unnoticed. While the numbers remain small, this change heralds an economic future for Aboriginal people’ (Marcia Langton, ‘Changing the Paradigm’, 2012). Is economic development the path to a postcolonial future for Australia’s Indigenous peoples? Why/why not?
4. ‘The repatriation of all Indigenous objects, artefacts and human remains is an essential step towards a postcolonial future for Indigenous peoples.’ Do you agree? Why/why not? Answer with reference to at least one case study of repatriation.
5. How is Aboriginal art a form of resistance? Answer with reference to at least one Indigenous artists and their works.
6. In what ways might Indigenous participation in organised sport be a form of resistance? Answer with reference to at least one case study of an Indigenous sportsperson.
7. ‘Their voices are a challenge and an invitation’ (Anita Heiss and Peter Minter, Macquarie Pen Anthology of Aboriginal Literature, 2008). What are the challenges and invitations of Indigenous literature?
8. ‘Indigenous theatre [or performance] runs the risk of representing Indigenous cultures in a way that brackets or renders them static and unchanging’ (Helena Grehan, ‘Aboriginal Performance’, 2010). How postcolonial is Indigenous performance? Discuss with reference to either theatre or music or film.
9. How does Indigenous owned and operated media empower Indigenous peoples? Discuss with reference to at least one case study.
10. In what ways might Indigenous language revival support the project of decolonisation in contemporary Australia?
Aboriginal Resistance to Colonization
The postcolonial discourse in Australia had been very diverse and Aboriginal arts in the postcolonial era had gone through critical modes. Art has been used as the precious way for the dialogue process and expressing resistance. Aboriginal society of Australia is the way of maintaining the social, political and religious knowledge. British colonization in Australia began in the year 1788. The British authorities believed that they have the right to legally takeover the lands of the Aboriginal people of Australia. These people were displaced from their lands and were forced to leave their fertile lands and water resources, and to live with scarce resources. British people believed that they are legally entitled to the lands of Aboriginal in Australia.
Indigenous community of Australia had undergone tremendous and very rapid change after coming in contact with colonizers, explorers, traders and Christian missionaries. The initial contact of the British colonizers and the Aboriginal Australian was peaceful, but the establishment of the settlement and development of the farmlands, the conflict begun. Resistance began immediately to this invasion of land. Aboriginal people used the guerilla tactics against the heavily armed British soldiers. The aboriginal resistance was displayed as the violent opposition towards the colonization. The definition of aboriginal resistance has been very confining, which means that breadth of the real Aboriginal struggle has gone unrecognized. The will of the actions taken by Aboriginal people had remained underestimated. Documentation of the aboriginal struggle and physical actions taken by them state that their struggle had been ineffectual in comparison to guns and horses of the colonizers. Life, culture and arts of Aboriginal Australian have been the form of resistance in great ways.
In the recent years, Aboriginal arts has been gaining the unprecedented gory and prominence. This art form has been moved from the basements and the tribal art sections to the stage managed spaces of the famous museums of Australia (Reynolds, 2006). The first step towards the resistance was the physical struggle of the Aboriginal people. This resistance later shifted to various art forms. The Aboriginal people integrated humor and resistance to art. The different forms of arts displayed resistance, such as paining, music, and other visual art forms. There are various kinds of arts that display Aboriginal struggle and resistance to colonization. These art forms include, rock paintings, rock engravings, Papunya art, Bark paintings, stone arrangements, sculptures and carvings. Resistance was the way of non-verbal expression against the European colonization. The Northern Territory of Australia has been marked with the relation between the culture, musical performances and social identity of these people. The identity of the Aboriginal people has been marked with the ancestral laws and displays the mythological links.
The arts also display the divergent link with the history of colonization, conquest, rights of indigenous and several other symbols in the Aboriginal music. Music has been a very significant art form for the Aboriginal people, which they have used for expressing their thoughts and resistance in the history. According to the study of Jun Wu (2014), “the new musical identity has provided an artistic platform for indigenous performers to express a concerted resistance to colonial sovereignty and its influences” (p. 81). By applying the ethnomusicological approach, it has become possible to explore the Aboriginal popular music in terms of social, economic and political context. Some of the very significant examples of the Australian Indigenous music are seen through Blekbala Mujik, Warumpi Band, and Yothu Yindi. These studies have allowed exploring the prevalent use of the Aboriginal popular music and to understand its compelling mechanism to bring the public awareness about the Aboriginal struggle and their resistance (Gibson and Dunbar-Hall, 2013). The culture of the Australian Aboriginal was significantly destroyed, displaced and undermined by the colonizers that led to resistance. Since, the physical resistance was not able to achieve success because of the lack of resources; Arts became an important part to display their resistance.
Aboriginal Art as a Form of Resistance
A case study of the Blekbala Mujik says that they were one of the many Rock groups of Australia, who were able to achieve success in 1990’s. Their most famous song was “Nitmiluk,” which provides the base of the integration of ‘resistance’ in rock music of Australian Aboriginal. The songs and its musical readings are mainly focued on the reinscribing and reclaiming the Identity of the Aboriginals after their colonial experience (Jun Wu, 2014). The band has provided the ways through their contemporary musical expression of the Aboriginal identity can provide the peaceful way for resolving the conflicts related to land claims. This was the way through which the native people of Australia worked towards redefining their legal position and rights. The Hip Hop music produced by the Australian Aboriginal has been used to articulate resistance. The Aboriginal Popular music also played a significant role in bringing the awareness towards the geo-political conflicts and re-construction of their social identity.
The song with the title “Nitmiluk” has included the information or refers to the gorges and chasm of about 12 kilometers long area of the Katherine River in West Arnhem Land of the Northern Territory (Jun Wu, 2014). This area is significantly addressed because it is considered as the primary frontier for the Aboriginal people to reclaim their colonized space. The most important aspect of this case study is the attempt of the aboriginal people to reclaim their lands, expressing their local identities and used the popular music (Bendrups, 2013). There were the large scale frontier conflicts; therefore, this musical art had been a significant way to resolve these frontier conflicts. This was also the means of mobilizing the mainstream engagement that displayed the Aboriginal consolidation and pride (Jun Wu, 2014). Music worked as a very significant strategy for promoting the awareness towards the rights and land issues of the Aboriginal people. “Nitmiluk” was the great source of displaying Aboriginal resistance.
Another case study is of the Aboriginal Rock painting and petroglyphs that were noticed by many archeologists, anthropologists, artists and explorers. These rocks painting were firstly noticed by However, until 1990’s Ursula Frederick, who significantly took the contact rock art research . The contact studies have been considered as the largely unexplored theme in the Australian Aboriginal Rock arts. The nature of Indigenous rock painting displays the resistance towards the European colonization. The art of the Indigenous people have witnessed their contact with the Europeans and the lack of resources can be seen through the rock art painting. The rock art painting of the Indigenous people in Australia provides the narrative of the cross cultural colonial encounters. Rock art has also been important source of displaying resistance of the Indigenous people towards European colonization (Blundell and Woolagoodja, 2012).
The rock art tradition extended to many geographical locations. The images of the European ships and Macassan are found on the rick art of Groote Eylandt and display different types of the colonial interactions (Lydon and Rizvi, 2016). According to various scholars the rock art displays the cultural interaction also resistance of the Indigenous people to European colonization. Rock art provides the actions of the historical incidences. The rock art related to the Aboriginal men in Kiimberely, European sealers and Aboriginal women and other rock painting also depict individuals from early colonization (Blundell and Woolagoodja, 2012). These painting were the base for the archeologists to understand the way that how the Aboriginal people reacted to the colonization (Lydon and Rizvi, 2016).
Aboriginal Music as a Form of Resistance
The flora and fauna of Australia were freely accessed by the Europeans and Aboriginal people suffered from scarcity of food and water. For the aboriginal people, land was the most important element of life. Land was the core of spirituality and deep relationship with nature. Therefore, their art forms are mainly based on the depiction of the land and natural resources that were taken away by the European colonizers (Fisher, 2016). The resistance is displayed by displaying their bond with land and impact of colonization on their bond. The different art forms were used to display the history of repression. The fine arts, artifacts, rock painting and other forms of arts display various aspects of the British colonization. The arts forms were based on the continuous account of Aboriginal resistance to European colonization. The art also displayed the form of cultural resistance. The aboriginal artists are the source of the cultural survival and resistance in Australia (Fisher, 2016).
Aboriginal art includes the various ways of depicting their stories and giving their messages related to their oppression, destruction of the culture and their cultural identities. The artistic designs have the history of thousands of the years, which had significantly important for their cultural existence. Resistance was the way of informing others about their opposition and their real stories of culture, tradition and spirituality (Aubert, 2012). Since symbols the most effective way of contemporary Aboriginal art, there are wide variety of the Aboriginal arts forms and symbols that have succeeded in displaying resistance. 20th century was the ground breaking period for the Aboriginal Art movement. The Aboriginal art is becoming more prominent and evident to resistance to colonization. The social and political aspects of the colonization were mainly the seen through the various art forms. The rock painting, engravings, body painting and even ground paintings display that Aboriginal people had opposed the European colonization in their own way (Aubert, 2012).
The aboriginal people were forced to live in dry lands and rock, and they used these rocks and the grounds as their canvas to paint their struggle and resistance. Their art forms display the more detailed historical account of their origin, culture, tradition, struggle, contact with colonizers and destruction of their land. In first half of the 20th century, the Aboriginal art pieces were restricted to be displayed in the fine art museums of Australia. However, the archeologists made effort to understand the messages and aesthetic importance of these art pieces. It was also framed as the ‘Primitve Art’, as the 19th century societies considered them to carry the primitive symbols. However, the latter half of the 20th century turned the perspective of people towards Aboriginal Art and this form of art was considered as the Contemporary Aboriginal Art.
Rock paintings were the visual form of communication and the pictorial representation also displayed the resistance. The art forms of the Aboriginal artists are their personal antidote to European colonization. This was the way through which Aboriginal people symbolized that colonization may have affected their life, but they had the power to keep this culture, tradition and spirituality intact (Taçon et al, 2012). Australian Indigenous art is also considered as the oldest art tradition in the world, which increases its significance and importance. Art worked as the source for the people through whom they drew their personal stories and their connection with nature and spirituality. These art pieces and various art forms reflect the diversity and richness of the Aboriginal Art that helped them to connect their past and present.
Aboriginal Art is considered as the way of resistance because people used it to reflect their opposition against European colonization. The stories behind these art forms are found to running in parallel to the experience, struggle and history of the aboriginal people. Aboriginal art reflects customary trading patterns, struggle of the people fir survival on their own lands and significant influence of the colonizers, authorities, a governments and churches. The invasion of the land and destruction of culture is significantly evident on the life of aboriginal people in the contemporary world. Their Art form has increased the awareness of social, political and economic struggle of these people in times of colonization. The prominence of the Aboriginal art is due to the fact that they display one of the most significant struggles of the world. The religious symbols and presentation have helped in understanding their close relationship with their culture and spirituality. Therefore, it is correct to say that Aboriginal art is the form of resistance that increased the awareness of people in Australia and also deeply explains their struggle during colonization.
Aubert, M., 2012. A review of rock art dating in the Kimberley, Western Australia. Journal of Archaeological Science, 39(3), pp.573-577.
Bendrups, D., 2013. Popular Music Studies and Ethnomusicology in Australasia. IASPM@ Journal, 3(2), pp.48-62.
Blundell, V. and Woolagoodja, D., 2012. Rock art, Aboriginal culture, and identity: the Wanjina paintings of northwest Australia. A companion to rock art, pp.472-487.
Fisher, L., 2016. Aboriginal Art and Australian Society: Hope and Disenchantment (Vol. 1). Anthem Press.
Gibson, C. and Dunbar-Hall, P., 2013. Place, Politics and Empowerment in Australian Aboriginal Popular Music. Ethnomusicology: A Contemporary Reader, p.383.
Jun Wu, J., 2014. Sounds of Australia: Aboriginal Popular Music, Identity, and Place. Nota Bene: Canadian Undergraduate Journal of Musicology, 7(1), p.81.
Lydon, J. and Rizvi, U.Z. eds., 2016. Handbook of postcolonial archaeology. Routledge.
May, S.K., Taçon, P.S., Wesley, D. and Travers, M., 2010. Painting history: indigenous observations and depictions of the ‘other’in northwestern Arnhem Land, Australia. Australian Archaeology, 71(1), pp.57-65.
Reynolds, H., 2006. The other side of the frontier: Aboriginal resistance to the European invasion of Australia. UNSW Press.
Taçon, P.S., Ross, J., Paterson, A. and May, S., 2012. Picturing change and changing pictures: contact period rock art of Australia. A companion to rock art, pp.420-436.
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