His fortnightly diet of worms and other non-religious experiences
One measure of a country’s social maturity is how it responds to and interacts with those within its society whose culture is a minority expression. Most countries have minority populations. Mostly, let it be said, they do not demonstrate cultural maturity in their dealings with them.
Australia is by any measure an ethnically diverse nation. Even before the great post-World War II migration boom, its settler community included people of many different origins. Among these were large numbers of Chinese. But as with other settler societies within the Anglosphere – the United States, Canada and New Zealand – it is the descendants of the dispossessed aboriginal inhabitants who are most deserving of goodwill and a substantial helping hand.
Without canvassing colonial policy towards Australia’s Aborigines – about which the historical literature is excoriating – it is pleasing to note that today’s policies seek (though imperfectly) to return to Aborigines the self empowerment they lost when British settlers arrived two centuries ago.
Part of the problem is that much of today’s Aboriginal population is not in the same pre-bucolic hunter-gatherer circumstances as Bennelong, who is remembered in the name of a federal electorate in Sydney and whose place in history (as First Dupe, one might say) is assured.
Australia has long passed the point where it would Anglicize the name of its national animal symbol as “kangaroo”. Some sources assert that this means “I don’t know”, an early whitefella having asked a passing local what they called that strange animal. It has passed, too, the point where a future township (in Queensland) would be called Cunnamulla, which means midden.
It’s rather nice to think that while they were being harried out of their ancestral territories by a pack of uncouth and frequently murderous Brits, the Eighteenth and Nineteenth century Aborigines still found time to have a joke at the expense of those who were doing the harrying.
In the two centuries since British settlement and the beginnings of a distinct Australian culture and indeed ethnicity, the Aboriginal source of some of this identity has generally been left out of the narrative. That is a tragedy.
Complete redress remains a distant goal. But the Australians are actually trying rather hard across many areas of human endeavour. One such effort is the world-touring Message Stick exhibition. It portrays indigenous identity in urban Australia.
The art in the exhibition is challenging, in some instances because it itself perpetuates emergent myths about the principles and purposes of earlier policy towards Aborigines. Some is very striking, especially Christian Thompson’s three 2007 Hunting Ground works.
The exhibitions in Indonesia are the show’s last stop before it repatriates itself to the former Terra Australis Incognita. It was at the eclectic Maha Art Gallery in Renon, Denpasar, from May 4-14. New Consul-General Majell Hind did the honours at the opening assisted by Vicky Miller, First Secretary (Cultural) at Australia’s embassy in Jakarta.
Before we leave the Antipodes for other matters, one other thing deserves a mention. It is the Australia-Indonesia Emerging Writers Exchange organized through the Australian Embassy’s arts and cultural program.
Australia’s Luke Ryan took part in the Bali Emerging Writers Festival over the weekend of May 3-4 (it’s a useful spin-off from the annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, this year from Oct 1-5). He and his Indonesian counterpart, Ni Ketut Sudiani of Bali, will be at the Emerging Writers’ Festival in Melbourne (May 27-Jun 6) and the National Writers’ Conference (May 31 and Jun 1) where they will discuss the exchange and potential for Australia-Indonesia collaboration.
Ms Sudiani notes that being in Melbourne will provide a completely different experience from her home in Bali. True. For one thing, the city’s climate is apt to give you all four temperate zone seasons in one day.
But it’s a fabulous place. A representative taste of the city’s contribution to Australian culture should include seeing an AFL game at the MCG, a visit to the National Gallery of Victoria, a peek at St Kilda beach (or Brighton for a different ambience) and plenty of coffee and culinary treats in Lygon Street.
Delphine Robbe, the motivating force behind environmental efforts on land and under water in Lombok’s northern Gili islands, is promoting a new project to grow a coral reef off Senggigi on Lombok’s west coast.
There’s novelty in the project, which is similar in concept to the successful Biorock coral regeneration in the Gilis. It is using metal works of Teguh Ostenrik, one of only a few Indonesian artists in that genre who exhibit widely in galleries. He is the founder of the project.
Among the novelties is the name – ART-ificial Reef Park Lombok. Look it up on Facebook and if you’ve a mind to, join its growing list of fans.
Pink’s the Go
Anti-breast cancer campaigners Bali Pink Ribbon organized a breast screening road show this month, in which free screening is offered to Balinese women at various locations around Bali. This is essential preventive health work and a very valuable effort.
Bali Pink Ribbon founder Gaye Warren tells us Bali Pink Ribbon is working with volunteer doctors and nurses from FeM Surgery Singapore and led by Dr Felicia Tan. Two mobile ultrasound units were sent to Bali for the road show, on loan from Philips Singapore.
BPR volunteer doctors and nurses led by Dr Dian Ekawati from Prima Medika Hospital in Denpasar also took part. Prof. Tjakra Manuaba, head of oncology at Prima Medika and medical adviser to Bali Pink Ribbon, led a seminar at the Badung breast screening road show.
The annual Bali Pink Ribbon Walk is on Oct. 25 and will be held as usual in the Nusa Dua tourism precinct. It’s always fun and the money raised is essential to help keep breast cancer education programs and screening going.
Free screening will be available at the Oct. 25 walk and a three-day screening road show will follow.
On Oct. 17 BPR has an “In the Pink” lunch and fashion show planned. It’s in our diary, as is the walk. Advance purchase walk tickets are available from Pink Ribbon House, Bali Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Support Centre, Jl. Dewi Sri IV/ No.1, Kuta. It’s off Sunset Road. Or check their website: balipinkribbon.com
There’s no stopping Nigel Mason, viewed by many as the undisputed king of adventure tourism in Bali. He celebrated turning 70 last month in spectacular style with a dazzling party at his Bali Adventure Tours Company’s headquarters at Ubud on Apr. 13.
According to Diana Shearin, of the aptly named DISH public relations outfit and who helped with the fiddly bits, Mason pulled out all stops with an evening of non-stop entertainment, decadent cocktails and an enormous buffet for 400-plus guests.
Mason’s Balinese wife of 31 years, Yanie, and their two sons Jian and Shan were present, as was Mason’s daughter Katia, who lives in Australia.
The proceedings were helped along by Australian comedian Kevin Bloody Wilson and a troupe of lissom young ladies who had delightfully forgotten (as so many do these days) that you’re supposed to wear something over your scanties. Still, this isn’t Aceh.
Shame we missed it. It’s also a shame that an accident in cyberspace prevented the appearance of our original brilliant report on the affray in last edition’s diary. The Great Cursor sent it to a galaxy far, far away. Or we hit the wrong button or something.
Blogger Vyt Karazija posted a great little video on Facebook recently, relating to education about not dumping trash in waterways. He suggested – entirely reasonably – that it should be screened frequently on Bali television channels.
He’d found it while trawling Facebook, which despite its many demerits is a very useful social medium. The clip features a red truck dumping trash into a river near a sign that proclaims “No Dumping”.
So of course we had to rain on Vyt’s parade. We pointed out that while it was indeed a good idea, it just wouldn’t work. Most red truck drivers would simply assume the rule couldn’t possibly apply to them. And drivers of all the other trucks, the green, yellow and blue ones, could say without fear of contradiction that they don’t dump anything from red ones, so what’s the problem?
We dropped into the Legian Beach Hotel on Friday, May 9, to help celebrate the opening of the new Ole Beach Bar there. The LBH is a grand local success story. It celebrates its 40th birthday this year and is doing so with the assistance of its significant cadre of return guests, some of whom have been holidaying there for decades.
General Manager Arif Billah, who hails from Lombok, is rightly proud of his staff and the hotel’s place in Bali’s tourism sector.
The drinks at Ole Beach Bar are great too.
Hector tweets @scratchings on Twitter