Second Century: 100 Posts Later

This is my 101st post since starting this blog almost one year ago. Harvey and I have been away from it all in the woods of Maine, in the northeastern corner of the USA, for a week; more specifically we’ve been away from a connection to the internet. In the meantime, I’ve been looking over what I’ve written in the past year and have selected a post a month (sometimes two) that I (and sometimes readers) especially liked. I’ve decided to include the list of them in the navigation column on the right to provide a review for long-time readers or an introduction for those of you who’ve just arrived here lately. I prepared this post while we were away; now that we’re back I’ll take some time to catch up on the latest news, including the reviews of this year’s art awards. So without dragging this introduction on any longer, here are my selected “Posts of the Month” since September 2005:Painting Culture (Books)
The first post of the blog, this set out my interest in writing about art and culture, and established my indebtedness to the work of Fred Myers, which provides the key insights that inform much of my reading and writing about Aboriginal art and culture.

For Yuendumu: Bush Mechanics, the vexations of trucks, and the celebration of Warlpiri history (Communities)
The opening of the new art centre at Yuendumu took me back to the ABC television series Bush Mechanics and what it had to say about Warlpiri culture and the meeting of old and new traditions.

Blackfella/Whitefella: the Warumpi Band (Culture)
Speaking of old and new traditions, rock ‘n’ roll in sung in Luritja with clapsticks, didgeridoos and electric guitars–in other words, the music of the Warumpi Band–opened new horizons for me in appreciating how Aboriginal people use all the tools at their disposal to communicate their culture to whitefellas as well as blackfellas.

The Yirrkala Church Panels: Kinship, Country, and Numbers (Art)
This post grew out of conversations with Will Stubbs and Djambawa Marawili in Yirrkala in August of 2005. We sat in the glow of the Yirrkala Church Panels while I attempted to get my head around Yolngu concepts of kinship: a task that’s still ongoing a year later.

Pintupi Country, Pintupi Painting (Art)
Fred Myers’ book Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self was my first key to understanding indigenous culture. After a few months of writing this blog, I decided to re-read it, and found my appreciation of new painting from Papunya Tula enhanced by the experience.

ABC Radio on Painters in Alice Springs (Art)
The problem that backyarders pose for artists and the art market has been a constant theme throughout the year, the subject matter of many posts over the months. This wasn’t the first post on the subject and won’t be the last, especially now that Arts Minister Rod Kemp has announced another inquiry into shonky practices in the industry.

Inalienable Rights in Northeastern Arnhem Land and the Western Desert (Culture)
The concept of reciprocity has emerged over the year I’ve been writing as a key to understanding how Aboriginal people structure social relations in their society; a lack of reciprocity is beginning to seem to me to be a key to understanding the continuing problems of black-white relations in a larger context. Though I’ve just begun to think about the latter, this post was my first step towards understanding the former.

Barunga Stories (Culture)
Several months before the Howard Government launched another offensive against Aboriginal culture via Lateline‘s report on the social ills plaguing impoverished indigenous communities, Galarrwuy Yunupingu’s call for a return of the painting known as the Barunga Statement opened a window on a chapter in Aboriginal history that exposed some of the strife within communities. It also showed what the failure to achieve Reconciliation has wrought.

25 Years of CAAMA (Culture)
In 2005, the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association celebrated its 25th anniversary with the release of a four-CD set of great music from its archives. ABC Radio broadcast an interview with several of the people who made CAAMA a success story.

State of the Art (Art)
I have a love/hate relationship with The Australian. On the one hand, it publishes some of the best writing on Aboriginal art these days, frequently pieces by Nicolas Rothwell. On the other hand, it publishes a lot of stupid, reactionary articles about Aboriginal culture. This post was occasioned by one of the latter in response to one of the former.

The Economics of Aboriginal Work (Art)
The first major art scandal of 2006 was precipitated to a degree by Rothwell’s article in The Australian, “Scams in the Desert” (see preceding paragraph) as backyarders came once again into the foreground. Too much of what was written, to my mind, was about the problems of the white art market rather than the poverty of Aboriginal communities that creates the opportunities for backyarders to thrive.

Buy Art, Feel Good (Don’t Worry, Be Happy!) (Art)
The Age joined the battle over backyarders with a piece by the usually perceptive Robert Nelson, who stumbled badly this time by suggesting that the problem of undermining community arts organizations wasn’t really a problem after all. 

Eubena’s Signature (Art)
Warlayirti Artists has manged to avoid the worst problems of the unscrupulous sector of the art market and at the same time nurtured successful artists for over a decade. Thinking about the woman who has become the “signature” artist of Balgo of late, Eubena Nampitjin, provided me with some insights into how this has come to pass.

Adventures in Central Australia, Mostly (Books)
I’m a romantic at heart (isn’t everyone?) and Nicholas Rothwell’s travel memoir, Wings of the Kite-Hawk, is about as romantic as the Outback gets.

New Art from Yirrkala: Painting the Waters of Gangan (Art)
When I started this blog, I wanted to write about art. That has proved much harder than I thought it would be. Exploring the cultural context of the art is challenging in itself. Adding in questions of aesthetics (like whose aesthetics? mine? the indigenous artist’s?) makes it even more difficult. Sometimes I like to think I can do it successfully.

Reflections on the AIAC (Art)
The major Aboriginal art event of 2006 for me was the opening of the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris in June with the chance to spend several days looking at the Australian Indigenous Art Commission (AIAC) and the presentation of Aboriginal art inside the Museum itself. Everyone in Paris had an opinion, and most of them contradicted someone else’s. After a week of looking and talking and listening, I started to make sense of my reactions.

Aborigines, Art, France: History in Review (Art)
Just when I thought I had sussed out the situation in Paris with the AIAC, Fred Myers sent me an article he had written just as Chirac was beginning to lay the groundwork for the Quai Branly ten years ago. Grappling with what I learned from Fred’s article took me most of a month and brought me to my 100th post. Incidentally, it brought the blog back where I started from, to Fred’s unparalleled insights into Aboriginal art and culture.


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