The British Museum exhibition Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation was the focus for my MA dissertation. It had a great impact on me, or perhaps I should say they had a great impact on me – the exhibition and the dissertation. Two stand out today: encounters – between visitors and objects, historians and subjects, authors and histories; and the reprise of my own encounter with the dissertation as a form of encounter.
I am currently in the middle of waves of thoughts about, within and upon these impacts. Clearly, or perhaps not, I am expecting to be able to express these coherently at some point. Writing here will I hope precipitate or encourage that eventuality.
Here is my first element, and extract from Jane Rogers’ Promised Lands:
“A new world worse than the old, because it can only be seen in terms of the old. Though its birds are brightly plumed, they cannot sing. Though the sun shines bright, there is insufficient rain. Though the mountains are high and full of magic, the function of mountains is to source rivers. Dry mountains are bad mountains, there’s nothing else to know.
And so the explorer, perhaps more than anyone else, is locked in his own cage; carries its bars before his eyes, views the country through its grid. Here we may farm sheep. Here, dig ores. Here, fields of corn, and over there a city. He does not even see the land, or traces of the massive dream ancestors that have shaped it; only how he will remake it, in the image of his own small country. He will mine it to increase the currency of his homeland. He will never escape.”