Art by Criss Canning - Native Seed Pods (2012)
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Audre Lorde, I Rise.
Racism and injustice are impregnated into the systems that we live in.
We are shuffled through these pre-paved paths that are thistled and narrow and bleed our feet to walk. It is the existential misfortune of being born, to live within systematic order so that we may survive, so that we may rise above that which constrains us. Through these systems we learn to know ourselves, to find a sense of belonging in the world and yet the path is barren and ungiving, the ways of being taught are fractured, segmented. All that these systems embody are unrooted, plucked away from everything that is loving and grounded in nature.
As we move through the various hierarchies of family, education, economy and health, learning our place amongst the chaos, we develop in participation with these systems and we are changed by them. As we absorb and reform, transforming our innocent compliance into the habitual agreement of ordinary living within the western worlds, we stand the threat of becoming sorely unconscious, bystanders of oppression.
My white fingers tentatively press against these keys as self shaming colonialism presses against my mind. Ideas which would be easier left unattended, put aside for others to approach with their volumes of experiential wisdom. Yet the time is ripe for all matters to be spoken, all that has been silenced to be heard and my privileged shelter is blowing over as the winds of change strip us all naked and demand courage in the face of fear. Seeing the world for all of its ugliness that human kind has created, all of the separation we have created is a necessary step upon the path towards change. These harsh truths and uncomfortable realities are pushing to the surface like weeds seeking to be ripped out. For the soils of trust between our land and our cultures need to be healed. Those that will lead us into beauty once more are the indigenous, the first nations, the earth cultures of our world.
Audre Lorde, writer, activist, black, lesbian poet of the 1930s unearths the deep shades of systematic suppression in her book ‘Your Silence Will Not Save You’, whose pages have made me acutely aware of the very matter I am made of. I have come to see how the system inhabits my mind. Layer after layer the unconscious archetypes reveal themselves from the most deepest unconscious of my mind and all around me in the waking world. Though unconscious and most certainly unwelcome, these worldly ideologies are ever present, and present within me. I am a bee within a hive. All of us, vibrating together, changing together.
Every aspect of our existence is a political statement.
“Because we cannot fight old power in old power terms only. The only way we can do it is by creating another whole structure that touches every aspect of our existence, at the same time as we are resisting… For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.
I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.
Yet within the silence lies hidden screams.
We are mouth pieces yet we are the voice, whose screams may shake the earth from the hard shell that constrains it. If we dare, we can recognise, that we are part of the pain as well as part of the healing. Within this embrace of truth we find its centre, a compass, with sharp arrows piercing through the fog of disillusionment and false pride; visions breaking through in the dawning light. It is each fall of rain that creates the rivers of life and the earth is thirsty for the reclamation of peace.
As we walk towards that promising horizon, we drop our grievances like winter clothes that have warmed us the in the darkness of our lives, the defence, arrogance, selfishness, pride and fear as we move quietly through the chaos.
I was born Australian. I have loved its land, the naked gums and the wild changing landscapes yet I have always had half of my identity and half of my heart elsewhere, to a lost ancestry where I was once too indigenous to land. For this land I call home now, has adopted me. This land is the home of the oldest custodians of our earth, the first nations people of Australia. Now I stand, breathing in the Celtic origins of my blood and those broken threads of my displacement begin to heal, I feel peace returning to my heart and a clarity unparalleled. The vision for harmony is one that must be led by the first nations. To be led by the traditional custodians, the earth keepers, the wise ones and work with the land to heal and repair all that was taken, broken. The grief whose last lingering presence will be transmuted into light when the wrongs of our past are made right by the people, like an amphitheatre of open hearts that are ready to receive and amplify the voice of true leadership. It is the people who will pull the systems apart. It is our voices who cut through the disillusionment of responsibility and take up the sword, we are the warriors of the new world. No one can take that responsibility but ourselves.
And as I write memories arise, my eyes salted and cheeks wet as a sea of people in standing ovation stand in solidarity with Uncle Bruce (Pascoe) author of Dark Emu, a true recount of Australia’s history. His presence, his words, a healing of compassion and unity of the complex broken hearts of this land. For the first time I felt like I could permit myself to belong here, with the torn tapestry of displacement healing itself in the presence of an elder and a traditional custodian of this land. The relief in learning from a true source and letting all the of the false information in my unconscious singe and burn into the light of truth.
We are not impenetrable, undying, unageing, unchanging beings. We are custodians. Custodians of our flesh and bones, of this land, of our cultures and stories, we are custodians of our children and of all that we touch. The geometry of our culture is destined to move out of the pyramid and into the circle. For that is natures way, that is her system. Cyclical and yielding. So we return now, to that gaping wound where the lands and the tribes of our past were stolen by the unrelenting hunger of greed and growth and instead of recreating the past we rise up, 'rooted'. With teachers to impart the wisdom of how to care for the land, so the land can care for us.
Ownership transmuted to custodian, old transmuted to elder, life remembered as living and existence known to be sacred once more. With first nations at the forefront, power, privilege and peace balanced within the collective heart.