Today was our last day in Brisbane. I spent this morning in the State Library, looking at the Flash Women display of fashion design by Aboriginal women. There was a wonderful dress shaped like Ayres Rock in bright orange, and some print fabric based on the woven patterns in tradition aboriginal basket making. There were some good quotes on display.
One for the reading community:
"Ignorance and fear on the part of the dominant communities often influences the way those societies deal with Indigeneous communities. Libraries have a duty to dispel that ignorance". Wharehuia Hemara.
One for anyone interested in identity:
"We are reminded from an early age to never forget who we are and where we have come from. Unless we have the capacity to have knowledge about our history and culture, we may never realise our identity, our dreams and our future". Dr Jackie Huggins
One for artists:
"Prints are connected to marks and marks are connected to symbolism, and symbolism to identity. As Aboriginal people, one of the ways we retain, maintain and demonstrate our identity is through print" Fiona Wirrer-George (Oochunyung)
While all of these statements have an obvious application to the exhibition of Indigeneous work, they all have a wider relevance. My librarian friend Juliet would be committed to the role of Library to dispel ignorance and build a love of learning for many groups/people. She is also very committed to oral storytelling, for the communal enjoyment that it gives. Juliet would probably have an opinion on what other things oral storytelling gives. Sociologists, anthropologists, old people, young people, adopted people and others, each have a particular interest in identity and how it is manifested and utilised to create positive futures. And if a community has a limited written history, with a strong oral tradition, how does the Library service support such a community? Around the millennium, there were many oral history projects in the UK, so does this indicate that academic thinking is broadening, to accommodate people and stories that do not fit with the western (Victorian?) way of recording knowledge? Is this set of thought processes, created by my summer roadtrip and the exhibitions I encounter, part of what the Study Abroad experience is meant to give me, in addition to the formal study? I think so. But I'm only getting this because I'm making the effort to go out and look, and think. I'm making the effort to take my visual diary with me, make notes and sketches, and it's often only when I'm writing my blog that the conclusions come to me. I don't think quickly and it takes time for the assimilation of ideas before I realise I've seen something profound.
Another reflection from something I saw in the Queensland Art Gallery yesterday. I was looking at a painting by an Aboriginal painter (did not note down his name in my visual diary), whose work commented on appropriation of Aboriginal painting styles by western artists. He had an image on the left, but on the right, had painted the names of about 20 western artists who had incorporated Aboriginal techniques /style /motifs in their work, and who had not credited their inspiration to the indigeneous community. Two names that remain in my mind are Ian Fairweather and Margaret Preston. In the 1930s Margaret Preston was very keen for Australia to develop its own national style, rather than to follow the European art deco movement. Therefore she incorporated indigeneous spots, lines and artefacts such as boomerangs. I understand that it is inappropriate to fail to credit other people's work. She did not ask permission from the Aboriginals to use their designs and did not credit the specific tribes, and this is now deemed wrong. However, my observation is that this happens worldwide to ethnic art patterns. And as students we have to do extensive research into other artists work, and this informs and influences what we develop and create. Creative students have to show their artistic research and credit the main influences in their design folder, but we don't credit other artists in our final work - because if it is that obvious at that stage, it would be plagiarism. (So how do I differentiate between plagiarism of an individual, and plagiarism of a community or style?) Artwork is often described as being "from the school of" to indicate it is from a particular style. I think the issue is about how western art theory deals with the intellectual property of ethnic or historical communities as opposed to individuals. I think in the West, we differentiate clearly between the individual and the group/style, and this may not be appropriate to non-western communities. Another case where I don't have all the answers to my own questions.
Also while I was in the State Library, I saw some live drawing take place. Stephen Wiltshire is an autistic adult from London, with a remarkable skill for architectural drawing. He has had a trip around Brisbane over the last few days, and proceeded to draw Brisbane cityscape from memory in front of passers-by at the library. Absolutely astonishing detail. His website shows more detail of his visit.
Tomorrow Jim and I are off on the next stage of our tour - another campervan that we will take to Cairns over the next four days. We may not have wifi again until we reach Cairns.