Friday, May 21, 2010

Screening Aboriginal Film in New York City!!!!!!!

Date:  Saturday, May 22, 2010
Time:  8pm - Doors at 7pm
Location:  The Wild Project 
195 E 3rd StpastedGraphic.pdf; (212) 228-1195)
Suggested Donation:  $5 - $10
"KANYINI" 
written and narrated by UNCLE BOB RANDALL
TJILPI  ELDER OF THE YANKUNYTJATJARA ABORIGINAL NATION
         
The evening will begin with a traditional Anangu welcome, and feature the film Kanyini, followed by audience dialogue 
Plot Synopsis:  
This documentary is based on the remarkable life and philosophy of Bob Randall, an elder of the Yankunytjatjara people of Uluru in Central Australia. It explores his idyllic early life, shattered when he is taken from his family as one of the 'Stolen Generation', and his journey since then. 'Uncle Bob' also explores the reasons for the tragic problems in many Australian Aboriginal communities today. While there is sadness and desperation, the film finishes with a sense of hope. Archival footage from the very early days of white contact with indigenous peoples is skilfully interwoven into the film. Written by John Haberecht, IMDB.com
About Uncle Bob: 
            Uncle Bob Randall is an elder, a “Tjilpi” of 
          the Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal Nation, and listed traditional owner of 
          Uluru, the great monolith in the Central Australian Desert. He is the 
          subject of the award-winning film, Kanyini, and the author of several books
          including his autobiography, Songman. 
Bob Randall is a 
          visionary educator, story-song writer, and bridge between the spirit 
          and science of ancient indigenous and modern, non-indigenous 
          cultures.  A living legend, Bob Randall articulates the wisdom, 
          lore, and traditions of the Aborigines’ way of living sustainably, in 
          environmental, social, and political harmony with All Things.
          
             In the early 1970s, his song “Brown Skin Baby" became an anthem for 
          Aboriginal Australians, and brought international attention to the truth of the 
          Stolen Generation.”  Like thousands of other Aboriginal children, Bob Randall 
          was forcibly taken away from his family by white authorities at about 
          the age of seven and placed in a mission institution. Early in life he 
          began the long process of searching for his family and Aboriginal 
          identity. His experiences and a diverse education gave him a unique 
          perspective of two divergent cultures. This has led to a life of 
          service and leadership, working tirelessly for equality, 
          reconciliation, and peace through collaborative, cross-cultural 
          education and sharing. Bob Randall lives and teaches the practical 
          application of “Kanyini,” the Aboriginal principles of unconditional 
          love and responsibility, for all things.
          
About the PresenterAsheville, NC local, Katie Kasben, was invited to visit Mutujulu community and stayed to learn from Uncle Bob at the end of her recent trip Down Under.  Katie had the opportunity to listen to many Traditional Owners across Australia, and has come to understand a truer picture of life in Aboriginal Australia.  Please join her after the film for a discussion about "KANYINI" and her experience with Uncle Bob.  She is currently working to create an Indigenous Leadership Centre in Hawai'i to heal Historical Trauma through shared experience and service.
          
Yo. (a term of acknowledgement, affirmation in 
          Yolngu language)
          
Nhama.  (goodbye)
An excerpt from Kanyini: Aboriginal Teachings From Uluru, Australia's Red Centre
By Kate Orchard | 18 July 2007
Central to the film is Bob Randall, a Yankunytjatjara elder, teacher, activist, an Anangu (person of the Australian central desert).
"This is my BIG HOME and I belong here. My name is Bob Randall. And I'm an Anangu man from Uluru. My culture been around maybe 40,000 years.We're probably the oldest culture in the world. When Caesar and Christ were walking this earth. We were here, living in the moment. When Cleopatra was ruling on her throne. We were here, living in the moment. For thousands of years these things you think ancient, we were here, living in the moment."
Uluru (Ayers rock) a vast seductive red rock in the middle of the Australian desert. Around 75% of Australians want to visit this beautiful place before they die. Thousands travel to the heart of Australia's 'red centre' to see the sun rise over Uluru, the largest monolith in the world.
Yet aside from a token memorable photo or a mass-produced t-shirt 'dot painting' it is still easy to leave unaware of the untapped potential of Indigenous rural Aboriginal communities. The film Kanyini is a timely window into this world, and offers culture as the means for reconciliation, to make sustainable change.
One of the traditional Aboriginal owners and carers for Uluru, Bob Randall takes us on a journey to explain the concept of KANYINI meaning interconnectedness, through unconditional love with responsibility for all things. The film explores four areas that underpin this particular Indigenous way of living: 'Tkurrpa'- belief system, 'Waltja'-Family, 'Ngura'-land, 'Kurunpa'-spirit. These living cultural traditions continue to be passed on to care and sustain people, water, land and shores.
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A still from the film showing Aboriginal Australians. Courtesy of the filmmakers.
"Our life was quite often very disciplined, we were trained to look after the ceremonies, the land and each other. That was important to our people... not to take more than you need and not to destroy anything that's there to the level that it cannot produce again. We are connected to everything else. And proof of that is being alive...You are never lost you’re never ever alone. You are one with everything that is there.”
Living on the sunrise side in the Mutujulu community right next to Uluru, we see Bob with walking with pride, merging with his 'country' where the stars are his roof, the wall as far as you can see to the horizon, and it is as he says 'very hot and very, very beautiful'. Snakes, lizards positively dancing.
Black and white archival footage merges with this present, the same places, like the very belief system, there is no past present future, no 'then' and 'now'. He reviews anthropological footage, 'as far as I can see we were healthy … because they lived in a beautiful way. In our way, Anangu traditional way’ children swimming and diving, elders strong, capable - all the signs of a thriving, healthy culture and community.
The story of culture clash has begun to be told in mainstream Australia in his lifetime - violent dispossession, killing, the loss of land, conflict for resources between pastoralists who fenced in land, and drove out natural sources of food. These, Bob says cut the ties of connectedness and responsibility.
It has been Bob's lifework to strengthen Kanyini. A living system of relatedness we all can learn from and share - the central message of this film. This was how he lived until he was forcibly taken, he doesn't know his age, but about 7 years old. He would not begin to seek family until over 30 years later. He never saw his birth mother again.
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Young Aboriginal girls. Courtesy of the filmmakers.
His story typifies the impact of the government assimilation policy which led to 50,000 Indigenous children being forced from their families between 1910 -1970 'assimilated' as white Australians- now known as the Stolen Generations. It wouldn't have been possible had Indigenous people been granted normal civil rights -they were not recognised by law as citizens until the 1967 referendum.
Bob's Randall's own journey into cross cultural education and activism began with his song telling his mother's story My Brown Skin Baby - They Took Him Away. This song inspired an international documentary telling Stolen Generations stories. 15 years later an official public inquiry Bringing Them Home acknowledged the need to hear these experiences.
On his journey through 'country' to trace his roots many women stepped forward to claim him as their son. Bob realized the magnitude of loss, so many children were taken. Sadly the burden is still felt today and the film highlights these aspects, children forced to grow up in a wholly white-oriented system with no trace of their traditional ways.
To date 250,000 non Aboriginal Australians are supporting Native Title and Reconciliation and thousands have signed 'Sorry books'. Implicit in the word Sorry is another responsibility- not one of blame, or reprimand but compassion and action. For government official apology, the word 'Sorry' is surrounded by a debate that perpetuates the failings of past governance; to date the federal government has merely stated 'sincere regret'.
In 1950 at Nuremberg, (Germany) Australia signed the Genocide convention to prevent atrocities 'where intent to destroy in whole or part a national ethnical or racial group - included forcibly transferring children of the group to another group'. Yet it was 20 years later before they stopped taking Aboriginal children away, as Geoffrey Robertson QC maintains 'that in itself should be enough for an official apology'.
At the end of the film, Bob challenges us 'don't let my people die in vain'. He calls to mind the voices of elders of the second and first world wars so that such atrocities will never happen again.
June 2007 saw the Federal government pass a law for Northern Territory banning all Aboriginal men from alcohol and enforcing a compulsory medical examination to exclude sexual abuse of all Indigenous children under 16 years in rural communities (regardless of the evidence of alcohol misuse and abuse of each child). The Prime Minister John Howard has sent in troops to 'take control' of 60 Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory.
 Tourists first visited Uluru in the 1940’s. In 1985 traditional owners were finally handed back freehold title, but Mutujulu, the Indigenous community on Uluru’s Eastern side, reap little of the lucrative income the tourism industry provides: "those of us living here on the eastern side seem to have nothing. Just travel to the other side, the sunset side and those people seem to be having everything. The contrast is vivid, it’s real”
Yet, the same government has over the last six years consistently reduced funds to these same communities for education, health and opportunities for self-management. The current Australian government 10 point plan continues to undermine Native title, in turn reducing opportunity for these communities to maintain the fundamental rights to manage their lands. At the same time it seems there is little challenge to the 30 mining companies prospecting for highly profitable Uranium in the same Northern Territory.
Communities do find their own solutions. In the time since this film was made the Uluru Mutujulu community has eradicated petrol sniffing by negotiating with the petrol company to use Opal fuel - that does not give the 'high' of octane based fuel. This is one example of cooperation and community driven change.
Bob therefore calls for a dual white and Indigenous approach. Rather than sending in troops, he argues they should support Indigenous people to manage and develop their own services. 
Ultimately the Kanyini message reminds of our collective responsibilities. The notion of pilgrimage is not only a physical journey but one of transformation, action shaped by the spirit, heart and mind. As we move through our every day lives or as tourist visiting sites of unique natural beauty, rainforest, desert, coral reef, we can evolve our daily journeys, learn 'other' ways to act and understand the world.
In Kanyini as with all great stories, it seems we return to a 'place' we already knew, only to see it as if for the first time - that is with connectedness to the world we live in. And with that connection comes responsibility.

1 comment:

KatieK said...

To VG, thank you for your comment. You'll notice that the article is from 2007, and much has changed (and much has not). I have, in fact, looked at legislation, but that reading has also been tempered with actually speaking with and listening to the people affected by that legislation. How many of the original recommendations from the "Little Children are Sacred" report were followed? Alcoholism, abuse, despair, violence: these are not conditions unique to Indigenous people. Everything we learn must be a mirror into our own lives. I'd invite you to figure out what made you so angry and defensive and use it as an opportunity to do inner work. With love, of course.