August 15, 2013

Do your bit for journalism in Australia and pay for your news

I'm a big fan of ABC's Media Watch. When Jonathan Holmes had his final episode last month, he talked passionately about how so much of Australia's news is now free and that it's affecting the quality of journalism in Australia. He urged:
"Whatever your politics, or your preferences, and even if you've never bought a newspaper, start subscribing to at least one media website: whether it's the Herald Sun or New Matilda, Crikey or the Sydney Morning Herald, old media or new, pay just a little to keep real journalism alive."
Well his argument persuaded me and I finally got around to doing something about it. I just forked out $70 for a concession subscription to the independent news website New Matilda and feel warm and fuzzy inside. New Matilda doesn't dangle carrots to get you to subscribe but that's okay. I have all the carrots I need. And I definitely wasn't going to give my cash to the waste of space that is the NT News or the colour-blinded Katherine Times.

I'm still considering subscribing to Crikey, even though I already have access to all their content via my involvement with Fully (sic). Not only are they probably the best independent news we have in Australia, I've gotten so much out of being able to contribute to Fully (sic), so it's the least I can do to give them something for their effort.

What about you? Does anyone else pay for news? If not, could you be persuaded to do so? Have a look at the Media Watch episode I mentioned and see if it motivates you to pay for your news too.

August 13, 2013

PhD Update

Just drafted another chapter. 22 weeks of scholarship left. Feels like 18 chapters to go. Wanna go home. Hate everyone. Hate everything. 72,000 words written. Still know nothing. 129 works cited. Still know nothing. Marra language still dying out. Kriol. Marra. Kriol. Marra. Knowledgemaintenancelossindicateindicateshiftdemonstrateindicatedemonstrateindicate. I see the blood on the leaves. I see the blood on the leaves. I see the blood on the leaves. Mustn't listen to manic Kanye West songs. Mustn't listen to sad Nina Simone songs.

That about sums it up. Now back to the grind...

*written on the #3 bus en route to Uni. 

August 02, 2013

Walking With Spirits festival... at last!

The Walking With Spirits festival has been running for about as long as I've been in the Katherine Region. It makes no sense that I'd never been before. I know the guys who run it and occasionally do bits of work for their organisation, I know dozens of people who've gone and plenty who've performed and worked on it too. This year, I stopped being a lazy bum and checked it out for myself and fortunately enough got to do so for free as a volunteer.

It was a pretty awesome event. Unfortunately with my volunteering duties I didn't get to the venue, Melkjulumbu (aka Beswick Falls) until dusk. It's an absolutely breathtaking place and it would've been nice to be a regular patron and spend the afternoon soaking up the location.

The festival location at dusk. Photo: ABC
The festival consists mainly of one massive show, featuring a range of performers who vary pretty wildly in levels of experience, who they are, what they do and where they're from. Instead of such a mixed bag detracting from the night, it helped to generate a genuine feeling of it being a true community festival, in spite of the professional lighting, staging and sound gear (courtesy of the Australian Shakespeare Company). And although there was a real mix of performers, about half were from Beswick community itself, making it a truly local festival and one that has obvious community development benefits.

The festival kicked off with the most senior elder/songman in Beswick, Victor Hood, singing some traditional songs. He's quite frail thesedays but it was wonderful to see how he sung with such pride and as much gusto as he could. He obviously believes in the event and still wants to show off his cultural knowledge despite it being so threatened.

BBB Crew in action. Photo: Peter Eve
Young people of Beswick featured heavily, with a choir (collaborating with a visiting mob of schoolkids from Mornington Peninsula), a great narrated shadow puppet show (which is now also a book published in English, Kriol and soon Rembarrnga) and plenty of them joined in with bunggul and other traditional dancing. The highlight on the youth side was the "BBB" crew - five young guys from Beswick with an obvious passion for hiphop dancing. Once their scratched CD was cleaned (definitely a sign of an authentic community festival!) they did two great hiphop routines. But even cooler was their intro performance featuring one guy on didj, another the apprentice songman and the other three showing off some solid traditional dance skills. A really nice integration of old and new.

There were a few lowlights, to be expected for any event that runs 3+ hours. The short appearance of the Australian Shakespeare Company to sing a couple of songs seemed out of place. The bunggul performance by the Ngukurr singers was fantastic but did get somewhat spoiled when the dancing was swamped by dozens of kids from Victoria. Yes, it was great that audience participation was encouraged but it could've been handled better to make for a better experience for viewers, dancers and singers alike. And I really think an interval would've been beneficial - time to chill, have a quick stretch and debrief with those around you to discuss the really interesting range of performances you've just witnessed.

Young dancers watch while they wait for their turn
Photo: Peter Eve
But the highlights far outweighed any flaws. The MC, Kamahi Djordon King, did a great job. An accomplished performer himself, it was great the way he could switch between Kriol, Aboriginal English and English and remain funny and engaging. (I really hope he comes back next year with his cousin Constantina Bush!). The traditional singing was phenomenal with performers from Beswick, Ramingining and Ngukurr delivering a range of traditional song genres. These sections were aurally and visually great and exactly what punters wanted to see. Their greatness was accentuated further by so many young men and women proudly stepping up to dance and complement the stellar songmen.

Shellie Morris and the Borroloola songwomen before the show
Photo: Peter Eve
The standout moment for me though was during one of the earlier performances of the night, where Shellie Morris did a short set with the Borroloola Songwomen she's been working with. A couple of years ago they produced the lovely Ngambala Wiji li-Wunungu CD, sung entirely in traditional languages of Borroloola which was recently released nationally. They did five songs all in Yanyuwa, which Shellie has learned really quite well as an adult learner, tutored by (among others) Leanne Norman, a former linguistics student of mine from Batchelor Institute. It was a great little set that had the crowd enthralled and they stand out as a too-rare example of an all-female Aboriginal group who command attention and are so strong on stage. They wonderfully capitalised on that energy, inviting all the women in the crowd to join the Borroloola dancers for their last song, li-Wirdiwalangu. It took a microsecond of encouragement from Shellie Morris to get more than half of 200 or so women in the crowd up the front and dancing alongside with the Borroloola women. The energy and joy coming from the women was palpable - a truly magical moment even for those of us merely watching on.

Leanne Norman and other Borroloola women lead and inspire the audience
Photo: Peter Eve
To end the night was a traditional dance/song genre called Bongiliny Bongiliny performed by Beswick dancers and singers and it was a great way to end. Good traditional dancing is so enthralling that I sat up on my knees to intently watch and forgot entirely about blood circulation. After their 20 minute set I had the worst pins and needles imaginable. But I was glad for that feeling and for finally attending Walking With Spirits. It was an awesome night and I will do my best to attend more regularly!