It begins with a boat approaching land through fog. People in uniform step onto the shore, plant a flag, and proclaim all they survey as theirs. These de-colonists spy some confused looking locals and ask them what they call this new found land. “Barbecue area,” replies a white man in a bib waving tongs back and forth. “It’s called barbecue area.” To which the Aborigine in uniform replies, “Strange name. Oh well, we proclaim our new land Barbequewharea.” Thus begins the de-colonization of Australia.
It was biting, nasty, and funny. Ingenious TV satire at its best. It was produced by Aborigines in Australia. It flipped history on its head with the Aborigines of Australia working to undo more than two hundred years of white settlement. Cities would be torn down. White children would be taken from their parents, placed with Aborigine families to learn how to be human and live with nature on the land. Their parents would be rounded up from the cities, placed into re-education camps in the outback to tend sheep, herd kangaroo, and repair fences.
Of course, there was a plenty of debate and argument among the Aborigine whether such inhuman treatment of other people could be justified morally, ethically, legally. There was even an underground movement of Aborigine who defied their government’s orders. They hid white families. Fed them. Lobbied to change the laws enacted that denied whites even basic legal and human rights. I thought it was brilliant as a commentary on Aborigine/white relations in Australia, but also instructive on Indian/white relations in Canada and the United States as well.
I also thought it would have made a fantastic pilot for a regular made-in-Canada television series that could have spoofed the last 500 years of North American history. Of course, I must have been halucinating. After all, we’re talking Canada – and Canadian television – in the 1980s.
What sparked this line of thought?
A story on the Guardian (UK) website entitled: “The Scourge of Artistic Apartheid.” The writer slams a self-centred culture, confirmed in its own self-importance, and arrogant in its view of the value of other cultures and values. He begins wondering if they would be upset if Stonehenge were bulldozed to make way for a McDonald’s outlet. He moves on to the destruction of “probably the oldest artistic representation of the human face anywhere in the world. Pause on that a moment. That fact alone makes it iconic for all human beings.”
Yet, according to the writer, there’s nary a peep in the media or by culture vultures about hundreds of thousands of rock paintings and carvings that will be destroyed by a natural gas plant, historical treasures “twice the age of the famous Lascaux cave paintings” in France.
“The World Monuments Fund has named it as one of the world’s most endangered sites, and archaeologists want it listed as a World Heritage Site, but so far haven’t been successful. Why? Because it’s part of a long story, what I’d call the “intellectual apartheid” which the dominant culture operates towards indigenous people, refusing to believe that indigenous philosophy is worthy of the title, that the Amazon has its rigorous medical schools, or that a Chartres could exist, in ritual, in the Australian outback. Tellingly, until 1967, Aboriginal people were legally classed as “flora and fauna” – ie not capable of rising from nature into culture.”
You can tell UNESCO that you don’t want this site destroyed by putting your name to a nomination to declare this area a World Heritage Site. http://whc.unesco.org/en/nominations/
Or nominate the site on West Australia’s Burrup Peninsula at the World Heritage Fund: http://wmf.org/watchguidelines.html