wtorek, 9 marca 2010

Instead of Aborigines...

I know: it was to be about my Picnic at Hanging Rock and dancing Aborigines. However, something happened recently that made me change these plans. So instead of Aborigines there will be... Poles.

I talked to my Aussie friend few days ago about Australian nature, mountains especially. When I mentioned that I'd love to see mountains near Melbourne called Dandenong (the name that is still impossible for me to say in a proper way:), he said Australia did not have any high mountains. “The only one is that... mount...Kociucko?”. He meant mount Kościuszki (2228 m above sea level). Although, I'm Aussie for a while, my Polish heart didn't allow me to waive it aside. So I explaine some basic facts.

First of all, that Kościuszko is our national hero and the name of the mountain itself did not come without the reason. The highest mountain in Australia was discovered by Polish explorer, Paweł Edmund Strzelecki in 1840. He emigrated to England after the November Uprising and since 1838 he decided to explore south of Australia and Tasmania. Do you know that Strzelecki was also the very first person who discovered gold at the continent. However, he concealed this fact on Australian and English government request.

The 19th century was the time of explorers. In fact, the diaries' of Edward Eyre, Charles Sturt or Ernest Giles are the beginning of Australian literature. Authors mixed facts and fiction to keep their readers attention (and people loved that “literature”). Two issues are interesting while reading these diaries: the notion of the emptiness and the so-called 'alienation relationship'. Burke and Wills, Wentworth and Lawson, Hume and Hovell, Ernest Giles, Ludwig Leichardt (his expedition inspired Patrick White to write Voss) – all of them faced the duality of the emptiness of the continent. On the one hand, it was the most important point of their expedition: the emptiness to discover, to fill and to posses. On the other hand,the emptiness that is... empty. They discovered, soon or later, that there was nothing, no impressive hills, lakes, mountains, rivers to be named. And why the 'alienation relationship'? It was the essence of their exploration. 'To discover', 'to get to know' this land meant 'to posses'. Although, it was impossible to do if you were the part of it. 'To be outside', 'to be stranger' were essential for discovering.

And Poles were a part of these discovering from the very beginning. In 1697, even before James Cook reached the shore of the Botany Bay, first Polish people (the eight of whom was from Gdańsk) came to the far away continent on board of the ship of Willem de Vlamingh, Dutchman. In 1790, when Sydney was fighting for surviving, Ksawery Karnicki, the Polish noble, reached land in the first Australian colony. He was on his way from Chile to France.

The first larger group of Poles came just after November Uprising, among them Władysław Kossak (Juliusz Kossak's brother). At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries: Bronisław Malinowski and Stanisław Ingacy Witkiewicz. There was the emigration wave after the WW2 (look -> Silver City directed by Sophia Turkiewicz), lots of Polish Jews at the end of the 50s and 60s. Finally, the so-called Solidarity generation in the early 80s (not all of them emigrated because of political reasons).

Poles have their own contribution to Australian culture and history. Prof. Jerzy Zubrzycki is widely regarded as the "Father of Australian Multiculturalism", prof. Jerzy Toeplitz, who moved to Australia in 1970, became the director of the very first film school in the country, in Sydney. It could be said that he brought up most of the film-makers connected with the Australian Film Revival in the 70s. More? Jerzy Domaradzki (the director of documentary movies and, for instance, the feature film, Lilian's Story,the adaptation of the very important piece of Australian literature by Kate Grenville), Gosia Dobrowolska, a favourite actress of Paul Cox, the most interesting Australian auteur, and Jacek Koman who played i.e. in Australia or Moulin Rouge of Baz Luhrmann. Do you remember the magic scene of El Tango de Roxanne? He is the Argentinian (sic!) who sings the song. And Cezary Skubiszewski, a Polish composer who recently has composed music for the Australian hit, Bran Nue Dae where you can watch Magda Szubanski, an actress with Polish roots. And I find myself at the starting point: the step-dancing Aborigines. So next time I will write about Bran Nue Dae – the first Aboriginal musical.

PS. We have also Harvek Milos Krumpetzki vel. Harvie Krumpet, the main character of the Academy Awarded short animation of Adam Elliot (look the picture above:).

And for the dessert: El Tango de Roxanne. Enjoy!

czwartek, 4 marca 2010

My Aussie music discoveries...

Recently I discovered him.

FOOTNOTE (from Wiki:)

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu (born 1970) is an Indigenous Australian musician, who sings in the Yolngu language.

He was born on Galiwin'ku (Elcho Island), off the coast of Arnhem Land, Northern Australia about 350 miles from Darwin. He is from the Gumatj clan of the Yolngu and his mother from the Galpu nation. He was born blind, has never learned Braille and does not have a guide dog or use a white cane. Yunupingu speaks only a few words of English, and is said to be acutely shy.

He plays drums, keyboards, guitar (a right hand-strung guitar left-handed) and didgeridoo, but it is the clarity of his singing voice that has attracted rave reviews. He sings stories of his land in both languages (Gälpu, Gumatj or Djambarrpuynu, all Yolŋu Matha) and English. Formerly with Yothu Yindi, he is now with Saltwater Band.

wtorek, 2 marca 2010

My Dreamtime at the very begining

Flights. Paris (an amazing airport!) - Hong Kong (there will be time for it in July) – Melbourne. When a plain took off in Hong Kong I felt really asleep so I just noticed a breath-taking view of small islands, a blue-blue-blue ocean and dazzling reflections. I didn't expect that when I would wake up in few hours, I experience something magical. I noticed a land emerging at the horizon and after that everything started. We were flying through the whole of Australia, the whole of Australian outback: starting from Darwin (do you recognise Kakadu National Park? So Darwin is there:), then Alice Springs, Eyre Lake, Simpson Desert... And all of that during the daytime, in a full sun, without even one cloud.

I was frightened. No, not that I realised I'm so far away from Poland. No. I was frightened by my reaction. When I was packing in Poland, even on-board, I felt nothing. I did not feel like going to MY Australia. I did not feel that my greatest dream was coming true. And what's worse, even when I saw this red, chapped land, when I felt on my cheek the Australian, burning sun, even at that very moment I did not feel anything. To be precise: I feel like in... Dreamtime. And then I understand.

For sure you know that within Aboriginal belief systems, a formative epoch known as 'the Dreamtime' stretches back into the distant past when the creator ancestors known as the First Peoples traveled across the land, creating and naming as they went. Indigenous Australia's oral tradition and religious values are based upon reverence for the land and a belief in this Dreamtime. It's an oral culture based on stories that are told by one generation to another. Now I can really believe this culture was born by this land, because it's talking to you.

At the beginning you are like in another "time sphere" (what is true, indeed), it's like a daydream. However, as soon as you realize it is not, so you keep looking at this land and then you start reading your story. This land, from the bird's eye view, is like a skin, a body of the old man: with wrinkles, veins... An old man who has his own history, fascinating history. An Australian poet, A.D. Hope calls Australia "a nation of trees" and writes about "spiritual poverty of land". Patrick White described once Australian interior: "a dead heart". These are quite bitter words and unfair when we consider Indigenous tradition and myths.

Few days later I was in the gallery of Indigenous Art in the city centre and I discovered that most of the Aborigines' paintings seemed to be like Australian outback seen from bird's eye view. Maybe Aborigines artists are flying during their Dreamtime? But that was not the only thing that caught my attention. I do not like modern arts, I'm not into surrealism or abstractionism. It's like watching Antonioni: I appreciate a technique and an idea, although I don't like it. It's not my style. At the very first moment of the meeting with Ingenious Arts, these paintings seems to you like the Western modern art, but it's definitely not. It is more emotional than intellectual. It doesn't represent any idea, but the story itself. The history of tribes, the history of their traditions, celebrations, a mythical past and culture – one of the oldest in the world. Aborigines came here 60,000 years ago. That's their land for sure, because they know how to read this land. We (remember I'm Aussie meanwhile;) have just started learning that, to be precise: in 26th January 1788 when James Cook's reach the shore of Botany Bay.

To be continued... (next time: my Picnic at Hanging Rock and tap-dancing Aborigines:)

Aussie Introduction

OK. So here I am. Australia, Melbourne, 37° 48' S 144° 57' E.

I'm walking upside down, watching gum trees, cockatoos and I finally decide (or more feel) that it is time for writing a little. For almost six months I'm becoming Aussie Martina, however it could be hard as I realised that I do NOT like VEGEMITE. (No idea what is it? Look below:).

I try to make up for it so let's pretend for a moment that I've been writing regularly. In fact, there are many things to describe after over two weeks in the kangaroos' country. And before I start, let me warn you that there could be lots of English mistakes. I'm sorry for that and I depend on your understanding.

Above all, I must explain why I'm doing that. I don't want to write a personal diary. It'll be more like a traveller notebook where I can write in my personal observations and thoughts on Australian films, culture and history (that's what I've come for to Melbourne). Thoughts of the person who have been fascinated by this country for many years, who's writing about Australian cinema, who, even though read a lot about Australia, is constantly surprised by what she is seeing here. And I hope that you enjoy it as I enjoy my staying in Australia and my notes, chaotic sometimes, will give you information new for you. I hope that you discover Australia as I do. So let's start our great adventure!:)


VEGEMITE - is a dark brown Australian food paste made from yeast extract. It is a spread for sandwiches, toast, crumpets and cracker biscuits, and filling for pastries such as Cheesymite scroll. In fact, childhood in Australia = Vegemite:)