Monday, July 9, 2012

Black and White Spiral Together


This painting is an exploration of reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples from a non-Aboriginal person’s perspective.  The red ochre coloured background points to the reality that reconciliation is grounded in the solidity of the earth.  The dot work celebrates Aboriginal connections with their Dreaming.  The long lines of black and white dots flowing into the spiral represent the long lineages of countless generations of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples. 

The term reconciliation has always seemed a little strange to me as it implies that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples were in ‘right relationship’ at a previous time in history and then lost their way.  In the short time since European invasion and possession of the ‘Great South Land’ this has rarely been the case.  However, if we went back in pre-history before settlement of this continent we would likely find ancient connections which the process of reconciliation might rediscover anew. As Yothu Yindi sing in their track Treaty: ‘Now two rivers run their course, separated for so long.  I’m dreaming of a brighter day, when the waters will be one.’ 

The colours of the rainbow at the centre of the spiral show what is possible if Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples are transformed by their contact with each other in many fruitful ways.  Rainbow colours remind us that rainbows form a bridge between one part of the sky and another.  However the interconnection of the two paths in the spiral is imperfect which highlights that this is not an easy process and requires great attentiveness.  Both lines have much to learn about what is possible as things are more actively woven together.

The symbol of the spiral carries dynamic energy and movement.  With this energy it is possible to say that reconciliation is soul work.  In other words, at some level, it is about transformation of consciousness.  This is a different process to that of assimilation or oppression of Aboriginal peoples which is a one-sided destruction of individuality and cultural giftedness and does harm to communities and the earth. Transformation leads to communion and deep respect for all things.
In the spiral non-Aboriginal people are challenged to discover their own deep soul connections as they journey together with Aboriginal people.  In Celtic tradition monastic and ordinary folk learnt to uncover their capacity for imaginal vision which refers to ‘inner seeing’ or ‘seeing with the heart’.  Inner seeing enables the reality of all things to be apprehended intuitively with wisdom and love.  It is our imaginal vision which will nurture our own healing and support the dreaming of the Aboriginal peoples as it continues to unfold.  Unfortunately this quality has been largely repressed or forgotten in the Western world.  The time is ripe for it to be strengthened again. 

The blue band which runs from left to right represents the Deep River which sources each soul and goes by many names.  In Christian tradition the waters symbolise the real value and authenticity of the Beloved.  Our bodies flow with the waters each day.  The Deep River is supportive of any soul work especially that which is about healing and its flow brings good things.

Finally, the glitter highlights the cosmic nature of the process of reconciliation.  Like our own Milky Way galaxy which has spiralled solar systems together over eons and created great beauty, form and life we are invited to bring our energies together to do the same.      M. Lamont, June 2012

Post Script:  When I showed an Aboriginal colleague this painting and accompanying description she wondered whether I could talk more personally about where it comes from. I am very grateful for this invitation and it reminds me of the Quaker phrase 'where words come from'.  We could change this slightly to 'where images come from'. What follows is some reflections on where this piece of art has come from. 

Firstly, my family on my mother's side has been in Australia since the 1840s when Leopold Herrmann and his family left the now defunct state of Prussia. My ancestors were Prussian Lutherans who were escaping religious persecution. Like many other immigrants and refugees of the time they took a voyage to Port Adelaide, South Australia. They were farming people and helped establish the South Australian farming wheat and sheep belt while drastically altering the landscape. Recorded family history indicates little awareness of local Aboriginal tribes other than to report interference in their farming activities. I found this a little disappointing but it reflects the attitudes of the times. So I am aware that my family line has been in Australia for some time. It is my belief that the longer non-Aboriginal families have been in Australia the greater the responsibility to support processes of reconciliation.

Secondly, my maternal grandmother fostered children from the welfare department once her own six children were in their teens.  Two of these children were twins of Aboriginal origin.  They joined the family at six months of age (when no one in their own extended family was able to care for them) and became much-loved members of the family.  The male twin died suddenly of a heart attack in 2003 at only 43 years of age, but his twin sister – now in her 50’s and still fit and well, lives in Florida with her American husband and two adult daughters.”

Further, on my father's side there is unsubstantiated speculation that my great-grandfather fathered Aboriginal children in Western Australia. Hopefully I will at some stage have an opportunity to explore this possibility.  I'm not aware of any other familial connections at this time. However for many years now I have noticed a depth of feeling when I have heard or read about Aboriginal stories of loss and survival. In recent years I have taken to reading a short passage about Aboriginal battles with white invaders on Anzac Day. This may by some be regarded as sacriligious however in what other way might we honor those who died defending their tribes on Australian soil while also acknowledging the wartime efforts of other Australians? On one such occasion I focused on a massacre of men, women and children at Pinjarra, WA in 1834.  This was in retaliation for recent murders by members of the local tribes.  Apparently, this largely broke the Nyungar resistance to occupation of their lands. As I reflected I felt a painful sense of grief as though these people were my kin in some way. I experienced a similar reaction when reading of suicides of young Aboriginal men in a WA town a few years back.

Finally it is still somewhat mysterious to me that I feel strongly about connecting to reconciliation however all of the above and more has influenced me at some level.  My work at Family Support Newcastle has provided an opportunity to contribute to reconciliation and to consider more closely how Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people might work together in creative ways. This painting is an expression of an emerging wholeness in my life in relation to these issues and relationships.