Borderwork in Multicultural Australia


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Pauline Hanson. Australia's faith in multiculturalism has been shaken by fierce attacks from its enemies and a sense of crisis among its friends. Multiculturalism has become a political tool to win votes and generate community anxiety. What is left of the multicultural ideal? The split in focalization reveals how the two types of point of view and the two parallel version of reality that runs in tandem through the novel are mutually exclusive, as are the different cultures that underpin them.

At times the two narrative lines intersect although never to merge; we jump from one register to the other by way of shifting focalization, like the shift between genres in Voss. The narrative is like woven of two strings of different material and caliber: tying them together in a durable knot will always be in vain. There are three different aboriginal traditional practices at play attempting to embrace the place.

It both challenges him and supports him and also holds him responsible for his attempt to keep up the ancestral relations. At a certain point during his visions, flying with Goanna, Jangamuttuk enters a room where something in the shape of a human being meets him: A slab of wood attempted to bar his way, but he passed through […] … The urgency of the didgeridoos danced him free. He changed from a spider back to the shaman, then into his Goanna familiar, then back again as he found himself out of danger.

A ghost female lay on the platform on the softest of skins. She was fair to behold. Stark white and luminescent was her skin beneath which, pulsing blue with health, Jangamuttuk could see the richness of her blood. A wave of ill-feeling from her nightmare shivered her form and before his eyes the fair illusion of her face twisted with a hunger which might never be satisfied. Her longing extruded from her to fix his attention on a small table within reach of her groping hand.

On it stood a golden flask.

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The source of good health. Before the hand could clasp it, Jangamuttuk snatched it up […] From behind came a loud shout of rage, followed by a scream of despair. During this brief episode the shaman imagines a flight through space from the outer world through a narrow passage into another world, all the while he transforms himself, still hearing the sounds from the ceremony he has set up.

A beautiful fairy-like female emerges and, in his transposed state, he can see right through her and read her calm disguising an uneasy longing and also spot a flask with what looks like a potion with magic powers.

Now, all this is seen through the trance of Jangamuttuk, only broken at the end when a more neutral narrative voice relates the reaction of the awakening Mada. However, when he leaves this state and comes back to the ceremonial site, it is much simpler. Actually, the female is Mada who observes somebody, accompanied by the sound of native instruments and singing she fears and hates, standing next to her bed and stealing her laudanum which then later is administered to the native participants in the ceremony. Mada screams in a rage.

When questioned by Fada later, Jangamuttuk sullenly avoids the interrogation. The whole point here is that the space of the natives has a relation of continuity established within the material world between that world and the spiritual world which is inaccessible for whites.


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For them, the flask has been stolen, no more no less; for the natives, the flask is a reward given by the spirits as a sign of the power produced by their maintenance of tradition. In this case, it means going shellfishing. Fada invites her to take a swim, simply in order to indulge in her nakedness, pretending to be only interested in making a sketch of the scenery. She knows that white settlers have already harvested everything edible in the sea close to the coast.

But entering the water, she is also entering the female element, her true element. Land is male, Jangamuttuk teaches his young novices who, unseen by Fada, are overlooking the scene. Swimming, diving and enjoying the alacrity of her naked body, brings Ludjee close to her spiritual companion, the big Manta Ray that leads her to where she can find shellfish in an imaginary series of movements in and above water: She waited.

The old ways began flowing through her. A connection was made and a line established. The grid of the Female Dreaming flowed with energy.

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She dived into the water in a quick flowing motion which took her under and under. Fada frowned in annoyance, but she was beyond his control. She was free in her tradition.


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  7. Her arms were fins; her legs tail; her lungs gills. They had missed each other. Now they were together again. Now they were together again and she settled onto the back of her companion, grabbing hold of the edges of her wings to cling on as Manta Ray charged off. Again we witness a process of transformation from the human body to another shape through a combination of imagination and concrete praxis, yet without losing the sense of the material world and its limits, related to Fada, the beach, the ships and the concrete search for shell fish. The transcendental world is not really transcendental, but a material immanence.

    This is extremely difficult away from home, because only there does one know the right songs to be sung. Nevertheless, Jangamuttuk tries to induce the right knowledge in his two pupils, while he himself now and then feels some kind of relation to the ancestors when mapping the space, even in exile. He chooses a place with an ancestral echo hidden from the white gaze for his private dwelling: One place which still retained traces of power was high on the hill overlooking the bay where the ghosts had deposited them, and where Fada had ordered them to stay.

    Stone tools and chips were cemented into the stone floor of the deep rock shelter and impressed in the back wall, and now part of the surface of the stone were painted imprints of ancient hands. Jangamuttuk felt the power of his ancestors residing there. He chanted softly of the nascent power, feeling it stir, but it had been so long ago that it might no longer quicken. It hung over the very edge and appeared ready to complete its journey down to the coastal plain.

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    Jangamuttuk knew that only the power of the ancestors held it there. He sang softly of their action. In the Dreamtime, they had set up a camp for him, then entered the clef to leave their essence there. He becomes one with the place, sensing its structure and direction by singing the spirits who belong there. It gives him an identity in the same way as he provides the place with its true ancestral identity.

    Place, song and moves are united as an identity formation in the performance of the memory of the tradition, in this case, however, only in fragments, removed as he is from his real place somewhere in Tasmania. By telling or chanting the space, otherwise sealed off from the grasp of humans, becomes accessible. Mind as action. Voices of collective remembering. In social theory, this notion is often used to indicate that no social interaction, however, spontaneous it may appear, happens without the use of various cultural media, discourse in particular, but also objects, institutions and behavior, in this case the chanting and moving body being the medium.

    The point is that embodied performative actions creates a material relationship as part of a mutual identity formation between people, or as in the case of the aboriginal practices, between humans and anthropomorphic units like a landscape conceived as a living organism upheld by active ancestral spirits.

    Both humans and the landscape will die if not kept alive by the embodied performative re-enactment of the tradition as encapsulated in the collective memory of stories and practices. It is of no use just to record the song and the movements and replay them in order to save them from oblivion. Embodied performance is indispensable for the mutual process to take place Munn, Munn, N.

    Primitive art and society. Forge Ed. Icons of country: Topographic representations in classical aboriginal traditions. The History of Cartography , 2,3, — In his Songlines, the global British traveler Bruce Chatwin tries to open the box of secrets related to this embodied performative practice of mapping a space through songs, as a way to literally find and maintain its otherwise invisible pathways for concrete walking through the landscape. The land is mapped physically and symbolically through the performative acts of singing and dancing.

    The indigenous peoples recreate permanently the dream tracks or dreamlines as well as the land itself and its peoples by anchoring them in the eternal continuity of the place, this continuity being the effect of the interaction between humans and land through the performances. Singing saltwater country: Journey to the songlines of Carpentaria. London : Allen and Unwin.

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    Step by step, Chatwin recognizes that he will never understand the full meaning of the performative practice. Apart from native forgetfulness, his limited insight stems from his white European outlook and from the taboo of some songs that have to be hidden from the knowledge of outsiders. He ends up with snippets of information only cf.

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