Sunday, March 17, 2019

Islamic Hospitality: Family

On a street in Covent Garden my heart overflows with love and I stop and tell Ozy and Ely that I feel like they are my sisters. They hug me in the middle of the wintery rush hour and tell me in chorus that I am their sister.

They then look me straight in the eye and remind me that this is a serious moment, becoming part of a Persian family. At that moment I could not think of any other way of entering the future. The side-splitting and brain-melting delight of my sisters and their family and friends hold my life up in ways that shape much of my chosen family.

Hamida and I spoke about the importance of politics, faith and life all over the UWA campus over a cool decade, and I will be forever grateful for the invitation to a weekday Ramadan dinner that meant this extraordinary woman became a friend.

My head overflows with love when I see Hamida, because each time she stops to speak to me, she changes the course of my life for the better. So much of my intellectual life is stronger and better for her insight and generosity, for the changes in our own lives that we witnessed in each other.

While I was learning to be an artist activist, Marziya always had time to guide me and keep me on the path towards the intersections I needed to witness to be better. I learnt from her actions, her words, her networks, and I was safer in spaces because of her. When she takes the time to know what I have done with her wisdom, I am lost for words.

Rafeif and her trust and friendship is impossible to pin down. We live in so many different worlds together and apart, just hoping that words and intentions can get us through what needs to be done to make things better. And no matter what I could do, did do, I could not move the needle closer to safety for her, for all that it was one of the actual aims of my life.

These treasured humans, much missed when we are in different cities, beloved when on the phone or in front of me, subtle teachers in the art of knowing with empathy and intelligence, spend every day in a world that grows ever more dangerous because my peers and I cannot yet influence it enough to change that horrific trajectory.

It is an artificial trajectory, an ahistorical trajectory, manufactured by the internal fears of a few, absorbed by the many, illogical and infuriating. And always it is entirely overshadowed by the mighty hospitality and love that has been shown me by my chosen family from the great culture that keeps the light of thought and knowledge alive for me and everyone.

Today I want to thank every beloved human I know who learnt their grace and love from Islamic culture. I want to thank you for being a home for my historic heart, for being a fountain of intellectual growth, for helping me pinpoint my future plans. I am not the woman I am without your labour and love.


In 2014 I attended an exhibition in the Louvre called Medieval Morocco: An Empire from Africa to Spain. It was exquisite.

I was in Paris after a full two weeks in the great churches of York and Edinburgh (and Scotland from top to bottom) so I was a full bottle on the Celtic religious imagery, patterns and traditions stonemasons added to the invading Christian iconography of the churches they built.

I was not allowed to take photos in the Louvre exhibition, so I was diligently sketching shapes and designs from Moroccan mosques, when my eyes caught the most un-Islamic pattern I had ever seen in an exhibition of Islamic art!

In the middle of the geometry and calligraphy of Islam was the delicately rounded shapes and small flowers of northern Celtic worship, and I can assure you I had a full-body reaction to that pattern!

I felt a shiver run up and down my body, I quickly assessed every triangle in my eye line to confirm their lines and relationships, and then back to the clearly Celtic pattern in front of me. I sketched the carving, and then I just stared at it, mentally leaping back to sacked churches along Hadrian's Wall for reference.

Ever the storyteller, I was delighted with the historical possibilities presented to me - was it a stonemason from al-Andalus who had been to the cold isle to the north to learn new angles? Was it a Caledonian stonemason who had decided the mist was no longer their destiny, revelling in clear skies?


It’s almost as if the world was full of cultures moving around in a glory of humans and thoughts, and had been forever …
Idiotic Didactics

The international trafficking in goods and ideas, which inspired cross-cultural art in the Age of Spices, transcended the differing ideologies of Islam and Christianity. The emphasis of Islamic aesthetics on floral and geometric motifs profoundly influenced global art forms, while Muslim artists readily adopted elements of foreign styles for local audiences.

Islam and Christendom both co-opted images of each other to support domestic narratives of cultural identity in miniature painting and engravings.
The Tampa: Defining the threat of the other

As a ‘multicultural’ country, Australia has a population of the peoples of the world, but is governed by an identifiably Christian, Capitalist, Anglo-Saxon power class. So while we should be a country that can claim fellowship with the world as we contain many representatives of that world, we instead are very clearly ruled by the ‘truths’ of our governing class.

In reading the letters to the editor I was able to identify certain prevalent themes that ran through the arguments on all sides. These themes can be directly linked to metaphors and narratives from within Australian society and especially from the governing class.

For ease of reference I will list the main themes so that I can refer to them later in the essay. The themes are ‘charity at home’, ‘White Australia Policy’, ‘invasion by others’, ‘do-gooders’, ‘legal solution’, ‘return to sender’, ‘independent nation’ and ‘political stunt’.

For this essay I have deliberated on how I am to refer to the people who seek to cross Australian borders, including of course those 450 people on the Tampa. I am what the writers in letters to the editor might call a ‘do-gooder’ and so I regard these people as refugees and asylum seekers and not as illegal immigrants with all the connotations of that label. And so I will refers to these people, genuine or not, as refugees.
The Importance of Being Earnest

At one stage during the afternoon, Adeeba was standing with Ely and Ozy and I, and she asked Ely if she was Muslim. Ely replied that she was, and when Adeeba looked at me, I asked her what I was. 'You are Christian because you are white' she replied, qualifying it a little by saying 'I have only met a few Christians with black skin.' And then Adeeba said something that made me sad. She told me that her father's car window had been smashed by white boys, but that her Dad was not hurt. And then she told me that 'a group of white boys had poked at Dad with a stick, but at least it was not a knife or he would be dead.'
Baby Steps
"If none of us ever read a book that was 'dangerous,' nor had a friend who was 'different,' or never joined an organization that advocated 'change,' we would all be just the kind of people Joe McCarthy wants."
Edward R Murrow
These words are from a patriotic American to a country in the grip of a reaction to terror across the water. I would like to think that we can apply them to the global village of today, opened up by travel, communication and the media – we know that McCarthyism was a madness, we know that Hansonism was damaging, we know that Race Riots are shameful, we know that wiping out a continent of indigenous culture is genocide. These acts are a result of the ignorance of life in someone else’s shoes, a result of remaining safe in the confines of your own ideological comfort zone, of fearing to look over the wall between us and them and acknowledging that they have a right to their opinion and beliefs. I am not advocating the madness of total inclusivity that makes everyone special, which Dash in ‘The Incredibles’ points out, makes nobody special. I would like to think that just as they have a right to their opinions, so do we.

We have an obligation, in this world of fluid media and easier travel and communication, to seek out the thoughts and ideas of the other, so we can hold our beliefs in true honesty. Continually seeking the opposition’s arguments, trying them against our own, and make the best decision we can on the validity of them prevents ideological stagnation and keeps your mind on the future. Just one ‘dangerous’ book, just one ‘different’ friend, just one idea for ‘change’ a year and you will be able to look people in the eye and state your beliefs knowing you do so in wisdom and not ignorance.
Bear with a Head Cold: Reprise

Where are the borders of rationality and emotion? Let's see; ruefully admitting 'we was wrong, evil, weak, racist and intolerant', check for emotion; all Muslims are the same, check for irrationality.

Where are the borders of rationality and emotion? Let's see; no Europeans are stupid, ignorant, religious extremists, intolerant, criminal and poor, with no family pride, the Muslims brought that into our great country, check for irrationality; all Muslims are to blame for terrorists that share their religious beliefs, check for irrationality; Europeans are being punished for the Holocaust; check for emotion.

Where are the borders of rationality and emotion? I don't know, right in front of us every day as people in every strata of life try to assert themselves with violence instead of reason perhaps.

Perhaps in the words pasted together by somebody who is using the argument that ALL of Europe was stupid, ignorant, religiously fanatic, intolerant, criminal and dismissive of familial safety to argue that ALL of Islam is likewise, coated in the inarguable emotion of the Holocaust to make it slide down a treat.

Bear with a Head Cold

Friday, September 29, 2017

When asked, will write

Originally published here by a dear friend

I’ll let you in on a secret – I keep all kinds of tissue products long after the use they were provided for has passed, and some tissue products I have kept for over a decade now. And no, I am not a hoarder or a collector, but a storyteller and traveller who has been gifted art on the nearest easy canvas from all manner of artists.

These beautiful sheets have been treasured for the many memories they carry, and their longevity speaks to the enduring power of paper to persevere.

Along with most people, I dispose of used toilet paper, tissues and kitchen paper rolls in my day-to-day life as they wipe clean and dispense comfort, and are then discarded. But every now and again a piece of paper becomes the canvas for something innovative or evocative that I wish to keep, and they form a beautiful tapestry of tissue from across the world.

I have an intricate rose made of a paper napkin given to me in Greece on the last night of a two-day romance on an Aegean island. The creator was used to visitors coming in and out of his life, but he was the only Greek dispenser of napkin roses I met, so the rose lies, flat and pure as Mediterranean sand, alongside ferry tickets in a travel guide. It was a strong napkin, plush and soft.

I have a kitchen towel, perforated and quilted, that has an extraordinarily detailed map of New York City on it, drawn at a London house party by a homesick American writer who is now a YouTube animation sensation. On one side of the towel is his precise drawing of his much-missed hometown, and on the other the terrible drawing that had prompted his own, my impression of what I thought Manhattan looked like. I don’t want to claim to be the inspiration for his YouTube Education channel that uses animation to dispel myths, but you can draw your own conclusions.

I have the inspiring advice of a Siberian Philosopher on the back of apple tea wrap from a tea stop in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul; my favourite being ‘all the world is a pot, and you are the spoon’.

My main art collection at the moment is of faces drawn by an artist on napkins, menus and receipts from our European bar crawls, and I have a note left in all her three languages by this lover, who could only find the hostel toilet cover to use as she left for her early flight to the other side of the world.

I have a lot of thin paper that hold the memories of large emotions for me, and now I have to find a tissue because memories, hey?

I have photos of intricate patterns drawn across paper tablecloths as a friend and I plot world domination over suburban yum cha, and my favourite saved wrapping paper comes from a friend whose day job was to sell family holiday packages to EuroDisney. To create the wrapping paper she spent a day on the phones writing Disney Corporate Catchphrases in calligraphy – this masterpiece is safe with me, I assure you – every ‘close to the magic’ and ‘in the magic’ is treasured.

So next time you consider that roll or box of tissues, think of the world it came from, and how it will fit into your world, but also keep in mind that an artist may pick up that extraordinary piece of canvas and capture emotions on it for another delighted human. There is much more to tissue than we talk about.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017



Honey, bring it close to my lips
The sun will shine from time to time
You can't make no money if you can't keep an artist
Mingle with the good people we meet, yeah!

See me I'm all about my money mane
Peeping your steelo
I could never spend my life with a man like you

People hold on, we've got to be strong
A quarter past eleven on a Saturday in 1999
You know you cannot hide, from what's inside

So I chose freedom
A light still shining
Remember me, I'm the one who had your babies

addict-insane, come play my game, inhale inhale
you're the firestarter, twisted firestarter
high density random blond boy blond country

I have run away, run away
Heaven on earth, paradise for a price
Sexism, baptism and wisdom
will this deja vu never end?

I wish I could turn back time
fools begin to open up their eyes
oh I know what you're thinking
paint it black and white and easy

They don't like the game we play
and i'm a simple selfish son
He's fighting and biting and riding on his horse

Don't push us, 'cause we're close to the, edge
wasting my precious energy
Is this how it all will end

We're 'bout ready to rock steady
Your baby's got rabies
And you jumped in with your eyes closed

wanted to be satisfied, i tried to be dignified
around the world

Monday, June 13, 2016

1119 Roundup

"The crucial difference between
Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bi-Sexual,
Intersex and Questioning people
and other minorities is this:

In every other minority group the family shares the minority status.
In fact it is often something that unites them.
But gay people are a minority group within the family.
A minority of one."

Magda Szubanski
Yesterday I went to see the exhibition A History of the World in 100 Objects, and I was thrilled to be able to see many objects from throughout history that I felt I knew so well - the podcast that inspired the exhibition being my favourite listening for relaxation and inspiration.

I walked through the exhibition with four women who are part of the external safe space in my life - the writing group I run which welcomes all writers in all genres, as long as they do not identify as male. This group is full of humans of great intellect and passion, and on Sunday three of them were discussing each object so completely that a volunteer guide asked me if we were a guided tour group. No, I replied, just some learned humans who like to share their knowledge.

Many of the objects that I walked through in the exhibition form part of the internal safe space in my life - history, which over and over again teaches us that today's discrimination and fears did not exist at many points in the past.

Statue of Mithras, replaced by Christ across the Roman Empire

Every culture on every continent throughout time acknowledges the self-evident spectrum of gender identification and sexuality; it is reflected in their pantheons of gods, their shamans and spirit leaders, in their societies and culture. Only Western Christian capitalist culture is obsessed with the binary and fears the spectrum that is right before their very eyes in their friends and family; and that fear and discrimination is outside of humanity and outside of rational, scientific and historical observation.

Arabian Bronze Hand and Seated Buddha from Gandhara

History also shows that religion is a universal human need, and for all its variety the basics are similar across time; there is polytheism or monotheism, and the basic precepts are care for your family and neighbour, and seek to act with your life after death in mind; whether that is the idea of your own life after death, or that of your descendants. The absurd concept of a modern "clash of cultures" dated from a certain day at the start of the 21st century needs only be rebutted with a look at any 100-year-span of history from any continent to prove that religions rise and fall, clash and combine, and it is not caused by anything other than human irrationality or fear.

Today as the world spun on, as our friends who are minorities in their families mourned death in their created families, as Australian and American politicians tried to squish two irrational fears into one short-term political slogan, I longed to push through time into the past, where the stories of all those who were not white, christian and male wait for us, and I longed to bring back to my time a little humanity from those who were wiser and more observant than we.

Carving from the Great Stupa of Amaravati

Bending the Faith to the Facts

To me the most humanist aspects of each set of beliefs speak of three pillars, not three schisms. Science speaks in terms of rigour of inquiry into the real, Philosophy in terms of individual vision and speculative progress, Religion in terms of selfless connection with the past, present and future. I do not see that these three sets of belief cannot work together, especially as all serve humanity; humanity is, after all their creator, their subject and their future.

Friday, June 10, 2016

1422 Roundup

It's two weeks now to the reading of my first adaption of a short story to stage in Melbourne for wit Incorporated, and of course I've decided that blogging some link roundups of the final countdown towards that and the Federal Election is exactly the kind of procrastination I need to participate in :)


What I enjoyed about this gif was how succinctly it summed up the reasons 'A Scandal in the Weimar', as an adaptation of Conan Doyle, was conceived by Jen in the first place; much menz, wow science, very easy to change characters to women because science and logic are universal skills ...

Credit here


My election campaign took a turn for the Nineties with Alex McKinnon's call for Australian Pop from the end of the 20th Century to guide us into the 21st century:
Savage Garden’s ‘Affirmation’ Is The Best Policy Platform Of The 2016 Election
Given I still own one of Daniel Jones' guitar picks from Savage Garden's first Perth concert, this suggestion has my full endorsement for both considering pop as art (whoot!) and the comfort of considering the values of my generation as valid.

Please imagine I am singing this to the day known as 2 July 2016:

In more serious, but also pop culture related news, I am watching three non-Western Australian Federal seats with great interest this election - those being Batman Indi New England - because if you say them fast enough it sounds like a legitimate sentence, and also, they are interesting contests, especially Indi!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Exceptional Conversation

I used to cry so seldom I would read ‘Bridge to Terabithia' each year to induce a minute or two of cathartic crying, but in the last years that has changed.

Now all I have to do is catch a sentence in a news item about a particular section of humans on this earth and I will be crying and fighting for breath so fast I won’t have time to notice I’ve disintegrated. I’ll just be doubled over in shock, and usually the rest of the day is spent trying to avoid reading any further reportage.

Rather esoterically the trigger that sets me off is the application of a certain legal philosophy known as the ‘state of exception’, which will mean nothing to people who haven’t had the dubious pleasure of studying the terrible beauty of Roman Law or reading the work of its fanboys ... I mean, the legal jurists who write on Roman Law.

Only yesterday I attended an exceptionally dry lecture on the medieval concepts of heresy, and in the Q&A the lecturer did remind us that Western Law is based on Roman Law, and “Roman Law is very good if you are a dominant leader who wants to expand your power.”

My Honors thesis required me to learn about Roman Law and its commentators. Coupled with my Catholic upbringing and my undergraduate degree in Medievalism and Modern Fascism, I can assure you that Roman Law, in religious application, literary re-imagination and deadly mechanisation, is my jam.

And it used to be my very anachronistic jam, a topic that was rarely ever discussed in contemporary situations, it was history and I assumed it was dead and buried. Then a certain cadre of Australian Catholics became the Australian Cabinet and my worst nightmares wriggled out from between the pages of the books on my shelf and stalked me across the news cycle.

I stopped sleeping, I started feeling incomprehensively angry, then I started seeing the future, and then I started crying. I’m crying now. It’s the new normal for me, watching the devils of the past dancing across my country.

I’m crying tonight mostly because of this exceptional piece of writing
Australia, exceptional in its brutality
By Behrouz Boochani
25 April 2016
I’d seen glancing references on Facebook to Boochani and his writing, but I’d never read his work until finally a friend posted a link to the article that discussed Australian Law in relation to Giorgio Agamben’s theory on the ‘state of exception’. I cried because, well, it's about the 'state of exception', obviously, but I also cried because I can finally discuss my own knowledge in conversation with another piece of writing that applies this particular branch of Roman Law to modern Australian politics.

So strap in folks, we are going deep and we are going Roman, although thankfully our Latin will not have to be perfect. I’m going to be talking about genre literature, I’m going to be talking about history, and I’m going to using screencaps of my Facebook comments from over the last three years. Because finally, finally, I can talk about why I cry all the time now. Why I cry when I read what look like completely innocent sentences. Why I cry when one human is counted as somehow illegal on their own planet because of a law made by another human.

You may legitimately not expect the Spanish Inquisition, but when it comes to the real terrors of Roman Law, I assure you, you may not be expecting it, but you will feel it when it comes for you.

And oh, how it’s coming for you ...

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Idiotic Didactics

The words chosen for the didactic panels in an exhibition set the ideological framework through which the visitor absorbs knowledge as they progress.
Didactic texts are interpretive/educational texts related to an exhibition, usually written by exhibition curators, that are displayed on panels on exhibition gallery walls or as part of art object labels. Didactic panels orient exhibition-goers to a particular topic or theme.
I recently attended Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices in which a disturbingly retrograde word/idea was used in the didactic panels in one specific part of the exhibition.

That word/idea was 'discover', and it is generally acknowledged now that the West did not 'discover' any other continent or culture. Each continent and culture existed independent of the West setting eyes on it, and the moment that Europeans first encountered other continents or cultures is now called 'first contact'.

Unfortunately, the curators of Treasure Ships were unable to use 'first contact' for a specific continent and culture out of the four discussed in the exhibition. So let's step through the didactic panels and see if we cannot find the problem ...

the Portuguese discovered a direct sea route

The modern era of global art commenced with Europe's insatiable appetite for spices, especially pepper, nutmeg and cloves - products found only in tropical India, Sri Lanka and the remote islands of Indonesia. These condiments were prized as symbols of luxury and status, providing flavouring for food and drinks, as well as being regarded as essential ingredients in medicines.

In 1498 the Portuguese discovered a direct sea route, via the Cape of Good Hope, to Asia, and Spanish, Dutch and English ships soon followed to directly access the sources of the valuable foodstuffs and other exotic treasures. The Europeans arriving in Asia encountered shipping networks extending from the Middle East to East Asia, along with cosmopolitan societies such as Indonesia, where art was valued both as a commodity and an expression of cultural identity.

The East-West trade in spices inevitably inspired the exchange of ideas, styles and fashions in diverse media in the fine arts and in material culture, including book printing, which played a key role in promoting understanding of the East. The West's mapping of the world no longer referenced religious cosmologies but emphasised maritime cartography, to ensure the success of the long sea voyages by which Europe engaged Asia.

CORRECT USE OF THE WORD 'DISCOVER': a sea route is something that can be discovered, brava! A sea route requires many years of exploration and mapping, and knowledge of that route and how to find it can be lost by a culture and discovered again later, or by other cultures willing to put in the work. A sea route is a physical manifestation of knowledge, and thus is infinitely discoverable by each sailor. Let's go make our own discoveries via knowledge and learning!

initiating the first contact with Europeans

In 1543, Portuguese adventurers aboard a Chinese junk ship landed on the small island of Tanegashima in southern Japan, initiating the first contact with Europeans. The establishment of the ports of Macau and Nagasaki enabled the Portuguese to access the entirety of Asia, including the lucrative trade of Chinese silk for Japanese silver.

Known as the Southern Barbarians (nanban), the Portuguese introduced firearms and Christianity, and were integral to the inter-Asian trade of ceramic and Indian cotton textiles (sarasa) to Japan. The unexpected arrival of their massive black ships inspired depictions by Japanese artists and the adoption in Japan of European painting techniques and aesthetics, particularly in lacquerware, which was created for local Jesuit communities and export.

The waning prestige and viability of Portuguese mercantile concerns in Asia during the seventeenth century enabled the Dutch East India Company (VOC) to establish new ports and annex others. Sequestered on the small island of Dejima, at Nagasaki, the Dutch became the sole European nation allowed to trade with Japan and introduced a wealth of fashionable Indian textiles as well as novel items such as the kaleidoscope, European ceramics and printed books, which had a profound impact on the arts and sciences.

NO USE OF THE WORD 'DISCOVER': brava! Japan existed whether Europeans had made contact with the island and the culture or not. Everything seems to be in order, I would like to learn more!

Europe was yet to achieve a comparable level of technological sophistication in these art forms

Asian textiles, including carpets, and glazed porcelain were among the most globally desired cargoes carried by ships during the Age of Spices. Europe was yet to achieve a comparable level of technological sophistication in these art forms, and it was the attractive designs of these items as well as the industrial scale of production that ensured their universal demand.

Indian dye-printed clothes were unequalled in the vividness of their colours and the variety of patterns catering to niche markets in destinations as distant as Europe and Southeast Asia. The Tree of Life motif, with its eclectic combination of Indian, Chinese and European elements, typifies the role of fashionable textiles as a medium of artistic exchange between East and West.

Chinese and Japanese high-fired ceramics, notably blue-and-white 'china', was likewise exported along the international shipping lanes of the spice trade. The decoration, vessel shapes and brilliant glazes of East Asian porcelain subsequently inspired Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern and European ceramic artists to emulate their appearance.

NO USE OF THE WORD 'DISCOVER': brava! Ideas and skills move along trade routes, existing in their own right, not being 'discovered' by Europeans. In fact, definitely not 'discovered' when Europeans couldn't replicate the skills and scope needed to build the successful industries needed for the global market. How we take our beautiful items for granted today!

Islam and Christendom both co-opted images of each other to support domestic narratives of cultural identity

The international trafficking in goods and ideas, which inspired cross-cultural art in the Age of Spices, transcended the differing ideologies of Islam and Christianity. The emphasis of Islamic aesthetics on floral and geometric motifs profoundly influenced global art forms, while Muslim artists readily adopted elements of foreign styles for local audiences.

Islam and Christendom both co-opted images of each other to support domestic narratives of cultural identity in miniature painting and engravings. Indian textile artists, often Hindus, produced court garments for the Muslim sultanates of Indonesia, while weavers in Iran created carpets whose style responded to the tastes of non-Muslim clients.

It was the European craze for tulip flowers, first introduced from Ottoman Turkey in the sixteenth century, which epitomised the eclecticism of cultural exchange. Turkish artists valued the tulip for its beauty and association with divinity, while the Dutch perceived these exotic flowers, bought and sold at wildly inflated prices, as symbolic of the republic's wealth gained through the spice trade.

: brava! Instead, we have the movement of ideas mapped out for us over land and sea borders and the note that art was used for political purposes. The irony of the 'domestic narratives of cultural identity' aside, we are in the last lap of the exhibition, only one more continent and culture to discuss with respect ...

The discovery of Australia by Europe

By the early seventeenth century, European sailors had landed on the shores of every continent, including Australia, either by intentional exploration or accidental shipwreck. The discovery of new species of animals, birds and plants in foreign lands inspired artists to seek to accurately record their appearance in meticulous scientific drawings and paintings.

In the urban centres of Europe, the increasing availability of Asian art inspired a fashionable craze called 'chinoiserie', which expressed the West's fantasy vision of the distant Orient. Ceramics, lacquerware, textiles and furniture were decorated with a pastiche of motifs derived from Chinese, Japanese and Indian art.

The discovery of Australia by Europe and the eventual establishment of the British settlement of Sydney town was a by-product of the Age of Spices and Europe's shift from trade to the pursuit of geopolitical domination in Australasia. Nevertheless, it was the Indonesian fishermen from South Sulawesi who first regularly sailed to Australian shores, calling the continent Marege, and who engaged in peaceful exchanges with Indigenous people.

Reader, I got intellectual whiplash standing in front of that didactic panel. So I want to FIX IT!, with thanks to Jane Gilmore for the idea of fixing shit up so it is less shit.


Indonesian fishermen from South Sulawesi regularly traded with Indigenous people

Indonesian fishermen from South Sulawesi regularly engaged in peaceful exchanges with Indigenous people, calling the continent Marege. Sporadic European contact with the Indigenous people of the continent eventually resulted in the establishment of the British settlement of Sydney town, reflecting Europe's shift from trade to the pursuit of geopolitical domination in Australasia. The Indigenous people of Australia never ceded sovereignty to, nor signed a treaty with the British invaders.
Obviously I had two main things to correct in this single paragraph (the others will have to wait):

1. Australia was not discovered by Europe. The Indigenous people on the continent existed whether European eyes were looking at them or not. First contact was made by various isolated Europeans over time, but no European 'discovered' the continent nor its inhabitants.

2. Indonesian fishermen and the Indigenous people of this continent had trading partnerships before European first contact. That fact should be listed first, and without the diminishing 'nevertheless'.

And I have one thing to add, especially as there were beautiful pieces of Indigenous art in the exhibition, right alongside this stupidly worded didactic panel: Australia was and always will be Aboriginal land.

I am still startled that the composition of the didactic panels was so clearly political and regressive. To have composed four panels that used 'first contact', and language that placed no culture above another, only to revert to boring Australian racism in the last panel is incomprehensible. To have listed Indigenous maritime trading relationships last and diminished in an exhibition about maritime trading routes is similarly hard to justify in an exhibition created for Australia.

I had expected better, so much better.
Below, the east coast of Australia being 'discovered' by Captain James Cook. Good work James, no one else knew it was there ...
The terrestrial globe incorporates the latest information gained from exploratory voyages, notably Captain James Cook's 1768-1771 circumnavigation of the world. It was during this voyage Cook discovered the east coast of Australia that led to the founding of Sydney in 1788.