Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Barry Humphries is

reported in this morning's state newspaper as suggesting that if the arts were labelled "sport" they would receive more funding. He is right. They would.
He went on to mention the money our state government spent on "upgrading" the city's main oval  in the CBD and the $40m they spent on building a footbridge to get to it. It is by no means the only money the present government has spent - or will spend - on "sport".
Arts funding gets a tiny fraction of that. It scares me because yesterday I was reading Diane Hofmeyr's post on "An awfully big blog adventure". She was writing about an exhibition she had seen in London - an exhibition of Australian indigenous culture. It reminded me, yet again, of just how fragile cultural inheritance and cultural memories are. 
Before white settlement indigenous Australians relied on art and story telling to preserve their culture. They had no books and no written language but they "read" pictures and they passed stories from one generation to the next. These were designed to make sense of the physical world and give stability to the physical and social life of the tribe. There were stories for everyone and stories told just to women and just to men. 
It is likely that only a small proportion of the stories for everyone have survived in anything like their original form. Indigenous Australians were not often prepared to share these stories with non-indigenous Australians   - may not even have shared them all with other tribes. There are some common stories but others differ greatly. The land mass is large and travel was only by foot. Many groups remained virtually isolated. Language differences also reduced the capacity to communicate.
So, indigenous Australians have lost many of their languages and the culture which goes with it. Efforts to preserve what is left have been hampered by a lack of funding, an unwillingness to pass the knowledge on to those who might have the means of preserving it and much more.
There is a belief that this cannot happen to cultures who have the means to read, write and thus preserve their culture. That's wrong. It can happen. Languages are still being lost. Attempts to keep them alive are often ridiculed. People ask "What's the point of keeping Cornish or Breton or Gaelic alive when 'everyone' speaks English these days?"
But yes, there is a point. A language is another way of thinking. It is other stories and other ways of telling the same story. It is other music, art, craft, and drama. 
And it just might be that the other way of thinking will transfer to a breakthrough which helps all of mankind or the environment. 
Language matters. All languages matter. 


Philip C James said...

Are there 11 men or 15 men in a Haiku Composing Team?


Philip C James said...

Agree about the main point - diversity of speaking reflects (or leads to) diversity of thinking...