Djon Mundine lecture, Same But Different: Things That Matter

Thursday,  19 April, 7:30pm at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies,  78-80 Curzon Street, North Melbourne. More info here.

I think of the present day Aboriginal condition and the struggle over the last twenty years as akin to the Stalin – Lenin/Trotsky divide in the 1920s and the 1930s. One wanted to consolidate communism in one state; the other to spread the revolution universally – to take it into the international. Colonisation, I think, rolls in a progression, so-called explorers and cursory meetings and exchanges, followed by violent interactions and power assertions. Then we have assimilation by moralizing Christian missionaries of differing denominations, acting as agents and intermediaries of the state, who set out their own colonial ‘spheres of influence. Now we have western capitalist hegemony blanketing all with “the intervention”. On the other side, we see the rise of a new generation of an Aboriginal bourgeois that has no need of “traditional” society and proclaims itself the proper voice of Aboriginal society. Every colony looks to its motherland, and continues to do so in the postcolonial period. In the Aboriginal case, some look to their Christian denomination, academic institution, or professional body. And following the original trope, some travel to Geneva, to Cuba or to African American USA and Native Canada to seek allies. But why not India? So what am I, your humble narrator – the Brave New World savage [a Caliban]? Is Art anything more than a sop – a token thin rose-coloured window through which to view these movements, a beguiling entertainment for the suffocating western hegemony? At the same time what does it demand? With anything important there is a cost. More than money or the dispensation of benefits and the provision of sinecures, it demands feeling and a commitment, a reimagining of and actual change in the way we live and think as a state and as a society.

Djon Mundine OAM is a curator, writer, artist and activist. A member of the Bandjalung people of northern New South Wales, Mundine has been involved in the visual arts since the late 1970s. He was Art Advisor at Milingimbi, Maningrida and Ramingining in the Northern Territory from 1979–95. While at Ramingining, Djon initiated The Aboriginal Memorial (1987–88), a significant installation of 200 hollow log coffins or poles now on permanent display at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Between 2006 and 2009 he was based at the Campbelltown Art Centre in Sydney as Indigenous Curator of contemporary art but is now working freelance. In 2011 he curated Cold Eels & Distant Thoughts (Newcastle University Gallery- opens at Monash Gallery of Art, 14 April 2012), Beauty, Vanity & Narcissism (Cross Arts Project Gallery, Potts Point), Star Sky Trees Breeze (The Vanishing Point Point Gallery, Newtown), People we know, Places We’ve Been (Goulburn Regional Art Gallery), and My Teenage Years (Lismore Regional Art Gallery).

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