“Danseurs aborigenes, a l’inauguration des Jeux du Commonwealth.”
(Aboriginal Dancers, at the start of the Commonwealth Games)
Brisbane, Australie 1982
I’ve had this postcard (sent to my family by a relative) for a few years now, posted in our kitchen. It appeals to me on a number of levels.
There is the interest of a culture not my own: this is obviously photographed in Australia while I reside in the U.S. There is the perfection of the asymmetrically-balanced composition: the tight group of dancers contrast in many ways with the uniformed man; they are separated from each other even though they are all in a very small enclosed space. It seems to be at night, so even though there are what seem to be windows, there is no sense of an outside, large space. The camera lens may have distorted it but the children and man tilt away from each other, no one’s eyes meet. The man’s eyes are closed and he appears to be suffering in silence, facing a window but can’t get out, while the children ignore him.
Overall there is the contrast of ancient and modern cultures. I know very little about the clash of Aboriginal and European cultures in Australia, except that it hasn’t been much better than the similar history in the U.S. I’d like to know how Aussies view this image, if they find it amusing or sad. Superficially, at first glance it looks funny, but the more I analyze it the sadder it gets.
I could not find any information in English about the photographer. Google turns him up as associated with a book with the German title, Australiens Aborigines. Ende der Traumzeit? (Babel Fish translates it as “End the dream time?”) The postcard title is in French probably because it was purchased and sent from Canada.
Little bits of art can be fascinating and thought-provoking. What’s posted on your fridge?