Today is Australia Day down under. Not unlike July Fourth and Thanksgiving Day here in the US, it is a controversial day at best. Many Aboriginal people refer to the day as Invasion Day. Before the British invasion that began in the late Eighteenth Century there were perhaps a million Aboriginal people living on the continent. The invading colonists told a familiar story about a vast EMPTY landscape devoid of people. Well, they got the vast part right, eh? Now Aboriginals are estimated to represent about 3% of the population, about the same as in the US.
I have had a long love affair with Australian Aboriginal art. This s also complex, as the art tells stories and represents landscapes I cannot know or understand. The art is both profoundly spiritual and, intended or not, greatly politicized. It is also, being enormously moving and beautiful, a source of income for some Aboriginal persons and communities. Fittingly, Beauty Along the Road posted earlier today about a recent trip to ” the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia, the only museum in the United States dedicated to the exhibition and study of Australian Aboriginal Art”. It is a fine post, filled with photos of paintings representing a wide range of Aboriginal cultures.
Today is a good day to remember that all of the lands discovered by Europeans were inhabited by Aboriginal people, and that many of those peoples still inhabit the land. Here in Vermont I have had mental health and educational professionals say to my face that no Native people live, seek services, or attend school in their communities. I guess the landscape remains empty. That pretty much takes care of the Native problem, erasing all traces of that disquieting Native presence, and making those of us who identify as Native ghosts.