"The Songlines", by Bruce Chatwin

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"The Songlines", by Bruce Chatwin

Post by Shelley » Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:02 pm

I read a lot of travel writing, and picked this up because Chatwin is referenced in Paul Theroux's "The Old Patagonian Express". I'd never read anything by Bruce Chatwin before, and I'm happy to report that he's currently on my "Read Anything by the Following Authors" list.
"The Songlines" (pub. 1987) is chiefly about the ancestral myths and culture of Australia's indigenous people (one character states that there is no such person called "aboriginal" -- like in America, the so-called natives like to be called by their tribal/ancestral/family names):
'. . . there is no such person as an Aboriginal or an Aborigine. There are Tjakamarras and Jaburullas and Duburungas like me, and so on all over the country.'
Anyway, the book is interesting, funny, educational, and is a good introduction to Chatwin's work. He includes notes from his travels to many archeological sites from which he forms a "universal" theory about the origins of all language, music and the survival of homo habilis.

"The Songlines", by Bruce Chatwin

Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:39 am

.. sad Chatwin didn't do a bit more research about what is the current practice in Aus before trying to be controversial .. in Aus, as in other parts of the world, there is a collective name for all original inhabitants .. in our case it is Aborigine/Aboriginal with a capital /A/ .. however it should be noted that ..
Usage: The Australian Government Style Manual (6th ed, 2002) encourages the use of Aboriginal as a noun to replace Aborigine. Indigenous is the preferred term to encompass both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Source: Macquarie Dictionary, 4th ed.
.. there are also Aboriginal words that cover a similar idea on a smaller geographical scale in that they refer to a grouping of Aboriginal people from a particular area .. in my area they are called Kooris, which refers to Aboriginal people from southern NSW or Vic .. and then there are
Nungas, south-eastern South Australia,
Anangus, Central Australia
Murris, parts of Qld and NSW
Yolngus, north-eastern Arnhem Land
Nyungars, south-western Western Australia
Yamatjis, mid-western Western Australia
.. but the problem with this is the same that arises when you refer to a Welsh person or a Scottish person as being English ..

.. there are individual Land Councils in what are deemed to be traditional tribal areas .. for example our local tribe/clan/nation, use of which word depends upon who you are talking to, is the Awabakal/Awabagal .. a look at this map gives some idea of the immensity of using a single tribal name in a particular area .. where the tribal group name is known it is used locally when referring to that group .. however when referring to the larger group the collective, accepted term Aboriginal/Indigenous is used as in say, Aboriginal People of the Hunter Valley .. this would encompass the Awabakal, Worimi, Wonarrua, Geawegal and Darkinjang peoples .. bear in mind that in some remote, desert areas of Aus a single tribal group may inhabit 40 000 sq km whilst around my neck of the woods with abundant access to coastline, lakes and rivers tribes had much much smaller tribal areas .. it was also my experience when working with Aboriginal people in Broken Hill that the local tribes did not totally agree on who supposedly "owned" which area ..

.. the use of Aboriginal is also necessary in order to collectively name organisations or entities such as the Aboriginal Arts Committee, responsible for all submissions on Aboriginal Arts to the Australia Council, Aboriginal English, a number of variants of Australian English with their own characteristics, Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre, dancing a fusion of classical and Western dance traditions combined with traditional dance from all over Australia and the Torres Strait Islands ..

.. Shelley I have tried to show that the word Aboriginal is needed and is accepted throughout all levels of Australia and that there is also a very active recognition of regional and local variations encompassing the use of local tribal names and words ..

WoZ of Aus 17/01/08
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The Songlines", by Bruce Chatwin

Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Jan 17, 2008 2:46 am

.. ooops, OK, point taken that Chatwins book is published in 1987 and I am talking about current practice ..

Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The Songlines", by Bruce Chatwin

Post by Shelley » Fri Jan 18, 2008 3:43 am

That map is a wonderful tool, WoZ. Yes, you've made your case for current use of the term "Aboriginal". It's true that "The Songlines" is pretty dated: I've come to a lot of non-fiction authors kind of late in the game, but I always make adjustments for the times in which something is written.


Post by pika0612 » Sun Mar 23, 2008 3:25 am

I have a question, how might Chatwin's view of land inform our understanding of recent efforts by Australian architects to design visitors centres in remote Australia in recent years?
Any ideas?

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