News September 2015

Payback – Part One

One of the key principles of Aboriginal society is ‘pay back’. In Aboriginal culture you give, because one day you may have nothing. And then you ‘pay back’ because someone gave to you. That ethic has sustained Aboriginal life and culture and helped them survive on one of the harshest continents on earth.

Last weekend more than 23.000 refugees arrived in Austria. They came via Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia. And there is no end in sight. They all have one goal: to get their family, their children, to safety. At the end of their strength, already having been on the road for weeks.

People have been forced to leave their countries since the very notion of country was created. What makes them leave their homes, where did they go, and what became of them? Let’s look back.

– The earliest were the Israelites, 740 BC. 10 of the 12 tribes were expelled when Assyrian rulers conquered their land.

– In 1685, through the Edict of Fontainebleau, Huguenots risked state persecution under Louis XIV. Around 200.000 fled, coming to England, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia and Russia.

– During the Ottoman Empire, 1783, 5 – 7 million Muhacirs (Muslims) arrived from other countries (Caucasus, Crimea, Crete, Greece, Romania and Yugoslavia) in what is today Turkey. Their descendants remain there today.

– The Pogroms in Russia, starting 1881 with the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, prompted a mass exodus of around 2 million Jews towards the UK, US and elsewhere in Europe.

– World War I, 1914: The German invasion of Belgium led to an exodus of more than a million people. After Austria-Hungary invaded Serbia, tens of thousands of Serbians were forced to leave their homes. And under the Ottoman empire the Armenian population was decimated through systematic persecution. Half of that population was dead by 1918, hundreds of thousands were homeless and stateless refugees.

– World War II, 1945: By the time the war ended there were more than 40 million refugees in Europe alone. Even before the end of the war, thousands of Germans began to flee Eastern Europe. The remaining were forcibly removed. In Czechoslovakia, more than 2 million were dumped over the border. In Poland, Germans were rounded up and removed by authorities. In Romania, around 400.000 left their homes, Yugoslavia virtually emptied its 500.000 strong German community. (Ref: Mona Chalabi, The Guardian)

In situations like this the way people react and act can make a difference. Right now we seem to be the privileged ones, the ones living in countries desirable enough to have a new start. A country where you can go to sleep in the evening knowing that the chances of waking up in the morning are higher than the ones being killed – it is up to us to invite the lost people, the deserted ones, and make space. Where would you go to keep safe? To ensure a safe future for your children? To protect your family?

‘No one has ever become poor by giving.’ (Anne Frank, Diary of Anne Frank)

Barbara
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News August 2015

To Be. Or Not To Be. Take 2.

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There is another part to it. Whether it is better to look back with regret or forward with eager anticipation. ’Do. Or do not. There is no try.’ (Yoda).

Looking at Indigenous Entrepreneurs like Celebrity Chef Mark Olive (known as ‘The Black Olive’), who has been operating for more than 30 years, fusing native and Indigenous ingredients with contemporary cooking techniques, (‘The Outback Cafe’), or Media Consultant Jirra Harvey, who has run her own enterprise for two years, (marketing for Aborigine community organisations), one of the motivating factors for running their business is ‘the desire to give back’. Many of the cliches about running a business, such as the importance of hard work, resilience and persistence are well known to potential entrepreneurs. However, for the Indigenous Entrepreneur there is a culturally different approach to running a business, such as the importance of embedding cultural protocols and values in their work. Working with the communities is an important part, mentoring young Indigenous people, knowing that the path they are taking has been carved for them by the hard work of their Ancestors, therefore through mentoring the Young they are opening the door for the next generation.

Australia is a nation of two peoples. The First People and the Australian people. There is an ongoing battle to find a way for reconciliation, for bridging the Gap, for uniting the two cultures. For making this country a greater one in the future to come.

The desire to give back, to open the door for the next generation, is something that should Be. That needs to Be. And as Colin Jones, Entrepreneur and Historian, paves the way for the next generation by passing on knowledge through stories, art and teaching, we are doing our part by making the stories visible through dance, fully expecting and looking forward to changes that must ensue. Join us. Come with us. Experience it.

‘Do. Or do not. There is no try.’ (Yoda)

Barbara
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News June 2015

To Be. Or Not To Be. Take 1.

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As Hamlet develops this argument by asking whether it is more noble to endure life passively or look to end that suffering actively, he examines the problem as a logical question.

With the exception of Greenland, the Aboriginal youth suicide rate is higher than in every country in the world. Racism and loss of cultural identity is one of the main factors. Young Aboriginal people who are smart and educated cannot afford the resilience they need to cope with enduring racism. The feeling of disempowerment, the transgenerational trauma of genocide, overwhelms them in unbearable situations that they cannot escape. Ongoing racism is a big driver in suicide. They are hurt by it, tortured by it, smashed by it.

Australia is a nation of two peoples. The First People and the Australian people. There is an ongoing battle to find a way for reconciliation, for bridging the Gap, for uniting the two cultures. For making this country a greater one in the future to come.

Art has the power to do that. To support, to accelerate. All over the world art has the freedom to express, show and deal with situations otherwise seen as offensive. And it has the space to offer possible solutions. Paths that can be taken by both sides, without any risk, without losing face, without losing identity.

‘Meta – a journey’, our Dance Production, offers exactly that. And as we come across this notorious question we are determined to take the path of activity, and show what can be achieved. Be excited. We are.

‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’ (Nelson Mandela)

Barbara
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News May 2015

Facts and Facets

Adam Goodes is a professional Australian rules (AFL League) football player. He was named Australian of the Year 2014. He was chosen ‘for his leadership and advocacy in the fight against racism both on the sporting field and within society – a stance which has won him the admiration and respect of people around Australia.’ (ABC news, 26th January 2014). He is Indigenous Australian. He just made international headlines. For displaying an Indigenous celebration war dance after kicking a goal.

On the surface it is almost possible to believe that the opinion of the Australians towards their Indigenous people has changed. Yet simmering below this surface is unrest on both sides. The Indigenous people are looking for equality and recognition, and based on the reception Alan Goodes got for his war dance, some Australians simply are not ready to embrace this change.

Research showed that 90 % of Australians think that Indigenous arts are ‘important to Australian culture’, yet only 17 % of Australians attended arts created or performed by Aboriginal artists. (Jens Korff, Owner and Author of ‘Creative Spirits’)

For us it is their art, their culture, their history, that is fascinating and magnetic. It appears that this is a different view from many of those brought up in Australia. Why the difference? This is the 21st century. People are educated, more accepting and understanding about multiculturalism, yet this deep seated problem suggests that there still is a great divide. Denial or Acceptance. Where do you stand?

‘The Aboriginal cultural heritage is a treasure cave, and once you walk inside and begin to glimpse at its crystalline insights, truths and tenets, it is impossible to look at the world in the same way again.’ (John Danalis, Australian Author)

Barbara
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News April 2015

Home – A Paradox?

The definition for homeland is easy: ‘ A persons or a peoples native land.’ But home is more than just a definition for a geographic area. In an era of globalisation the definition for home becomes more and more blurred, as immigrants, asylum seekers, or work related moves demand from people to give up exactly that.

Once you have left home, you will never be completely at home again. Part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place. Rather than looking for setting up home wherever you decide to go you could look at where you settle. A settlement is a place that you decide to settle in. To settle is to be at peace with your life and your environment despite the fact that it may not be home. Are you settled?

If you look to your own history – you have the home you grew up in. Then you spent time living on your own, away from home. You set up home with a partner. Which one now is home? Is it the family home? The student home? Or the home you make. Home becomes a paradox. We look for something which is elusive. On the other hand, where we settle is our home for the moment, in all its aspects. It is neither historical, nor is it in the future. It is in the present. Once we have a sense of being settled then with it also comes inner peace. A peace that looks at past homes not with longing but with loving, joyful memories.

Eternal longing for home can be destructive. But being settled lifts us up as it allows us to embrace all that is around us. To enjoy new friends, new cultures and new environments without the need or reason to forget the past. Embrace it. Always.

‘I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.’ (Maya Angelou, Author, 1928 – 2014)

Barbara
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