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Beyond The Media

Over the years we've sat with elders and with people in most of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara communities, listened and shared stories, and felt wonderfully secure in this country. As we've all grown older we've been shattered by every casualty resulting from the relentless infiltration by white culture's more difficult components, and by how hard it is for so many young people to survive, let alone thrive when away from their communities. 

Germaine Greer's late 1980s observation that (white) Australia was becoming a "pleasure-fixated adolescent society" was tragically accurate i.e. whoever has money to spend receives temporary and often meaningless affirmation, which for people struggling with cultural and identity complications can be terribly de-stabilising.

Surely there must be a way of transposing and communicating the strength, stability and hope contained in the old ways? Many people are doing what they can. In our Beyond The Dreaming story and songline series Rev. Peter Nyaningu will be doing his best to present traditional Tjukurpa stories alongside his wealth of experience as a tribal elder and an ordained Christian minister. 

Many stories and songs we record will not be accessible (where tribal law restricts audience) to the general public via this website. In the longtime past, Aboriginal lore stories and songs were never written down, or of course filmed.

One advantage of that was that they could be gradually revealed in appropriate degrees. Another was in not ever being seen 'accidentally' or 'inadvertently' or at the wrong time. The specific reasons for each story's secrecy were clear to the elders in their wisdom, though not always clear to others!

Aboriginal Law has been arguably the most stable in known history - and restrictions on who gets to see what, and when, have helped our Aboriginal cultures to remain strong. 

There's an interesting parallel to this in the philosophy of Socrates, who inverts the common person's intuition about what is knowable and what is real. While most people may take the objects of their senses to be real, Socrates was contemptuous of people confined to thinking something has to be tangible to be real.  

This is not to say Socrates either dictates to or has the keys to ancient tribal Aboriginal wisdom, but his notion of reality being unavailable to those who use only their physical senses is certainly worth contemplating. Again: Aboriginal elders knew when it was best to bring out whichever story, and to whom - and location brought this process alive. 

The old mechanism is not now so available. Travelling as a group through the land to be in the right place at the right time seasonally, ceremonially and practically - and living and growing together along the way - doesn't happen the same way any more. So those unique and dynamic opportunities for guidance no longer exist.

Recordings of inma and ceremony have been archived by universities. Also, many attempts have been made by media groups to capture Aboriginal culture - and serve it up in the lounge rooms of the masses. That's not what we're about! We have no production agenda and are beholden to no benefactor or financier; no pre-decided editorial bias or outcome; no makeup team, no camera crew, no sound crew or director; no budget to fear and no need to compete for air-time in a market saturated with pop-culture.

This is our response to a specific call for help - to record and preserve Tjukurpa stories, historical accounts, messages for troubled times.. then ultimately to communicate them to people who the elders are certain will be hungry for them.

Discussions among senior elders have been underway to discern how much of which restricted stories can and should be released for the common good, and if so, when and where will be most appropriate. In this task I'm merely a facilitator and as always, I will defer to my own elders and will abide by their wishes and their timing.

- Brouss Ngunanti Chambers


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