PDA

View Full Version : Rules concering Aboriginals



Alice.S
09-01-2008, 03:54 PM
Hello, umm err.
Well okay, I don't really know how to word this. I know that with rules and things put in place to respect aboriginal people i.e.; using those censor things on TV to inform that it may contain images and footage of deceased relatives and at school was learn in art that were not aloud to paint in aboriginal style but Iím writing a story and my MC is Aboriginal, the story is told from his POV and I was wondering is this disrespectful in anyway, thatís the last thing I want to be. I can't find anything to help me clear this up.
Help please.

Tachyon
09-01-2008, 07:25 PM
That entirely depends on what you're writing about, not necessarily just the character.

Of course you can write a character whose ethnicity differs from yours. However, I would definitely recommend you do your research so you can present a realistic character. Some things you'll need to think about include the particular tribe whence your character comes and how your character's culture shaped him or her. I know some Aboriginals who are steeped in their culture and others (particularly youth) who reject it to assimilate into mainstream society.

Writing someone who comes from a different culture can be challenging, but it can also be fun and interesting. You'll learn a lot about another culture, and that in turn is going to give you ideas for your story and how you can make your character develop.

stuckupmyownera
09-01-2008, 07:37 PM
I have never heard of such rules. Lots of people write (and paint, sing, etc.) about cultures which are not their own. Why should aboriginals get special treatment? Why would they be ultra sensitive (more so than anyone else) about how they are represented?

Of course, we should always do our research thoroughly and represent everyone fairly and accurately. But I don't see why we should be particularly careful of one race over others.

Sorry if I'm missing something and that's harsh or disrespectful - if so, I don't get it, that's all. We're all part of the same world.

Shamisen
09-02-2008, 12:41 AM
I must say I agree with stuckupmyownera - I've never heard of such a thing. I'd be interested to hear more though.

frimble3
09-02-2008, 02:12 AM
Hello, umm err.
Well okay, I don't really know how to word this. I know that with rules and things put in place to respect aboriginal people i.e.; using those censor things on TV to inform that it may contain images and footage of deceased relatives and at school was learn in art that were not aloud to paint in aboriginal style but I’m writing a story and my MC is Aboriginal, the story is told from his POV and I was wondering is this disrespectful in anyway, that’s the last thing I want to be. I can't find anything to help me clear this up.
Help please. I have to admit I know nothing specifically about this, but I'm leaping in, two-cents in hand. I'm assuming you mean Australian Aboriginal people? I suspect that the rules and things are to err on the safe side for religious reasons. Isn't there stuff in Aboriginal art that deals with 'Dream Time' and origins and ancestors? So to use the style without knowing the meanings might inadvertantly cause offence. (Or deliberately cause offence - look at the furors in New York over galleries displaying Jesus covered in urine, or the Virgin Mary covered in elephant droppings.) As for 'images and footage of deceased relatives', if there are prohibitions on looking at the dead, this might be an important warning. Of course, religion aside, it might be hard to look at pictures of relatives who were forcibly taken by the government and never seen again. Oops, no, that's Canadian history.
But people have written about other ethnicities before and will again. Tachyon is right, write your story, then look at it.

Ms Hollands
09-02-2008, 02:14 AM
Oooh, I remember some Aboriginal kids coming into our school to give us a go on their didgeridoos before they put on a show with traditional dance and music. I also remember more than once using 'natural paints' to create typically Aboriginal-looking art at various stages of schooling, which was always lots of fun!

But that was twenty years ago...maybe it's changed since then...

Tachyon
09-02-2008, 03:36 AM
I have to admit I know nothing specifically about this, but I'm leaping in, two-cents in hand. I'm assuming you mean Australian Aboriginal people? I suspect that the rules and things are to err on the safe side for religious reasons. Isn't there stuff in Aboriginal art that deals with 'Dream Time' and origins and ancestors?
New World and Australian Aboriginals alike did not develop writing prior to contact with other peoples (with the exception of the elite portion of Mesoamerican society). As a result, both groups have relied on an oral tradition up until the past few centuries. Their art has consequently evolved into a vehicle for such stories; Aboriginal art is heavy with symbols used to communicate stories. In essence, it is like a language, albeit a visual, symbolical one. Without understanding the meaning of the symbols, you are right: you can reproduce the aesthetic value, but it will lack relevance.

As far as "rules" go, I don't know where Alice lives, but I never grew up with such a bizarre taboo. Seeking to learn about another culture is a worthy endeavour. :)

Alice.S
09-02-2008, 04:15 AM
That entirely depends on what you're writing about, not necessarily just the character.

Of course you can write a character whose ethnicity differs from yours. However, I would definitely recommend you do your research so you can present a realistic character. Some things you'll need to think about include the particular tribe whence your character comes and how your character's culture shaped him or her. I know some Aboriginals who are steeped in their culture and others (particularly youth) who reject it to assimilate into mainstream society.

Writing someone who comes from a different culture can be challenging, but it can also be fun and interesting. You'll learn a lot about another culture, and that in turn is going to give you ideas for your story and how you can make your character develop.

Thank you.
Thatís the other thing I love my MC, but he does come from the wrong side of the tracks, but so do my other characters. One, who is a young Asian girl--she basically the hero to my MC, but my MC is the real hero. and two other main characters, one and Irish- Australian and one who isÖ will Iím not sure his background, I don't get anything for him, his really quite stubborn and wont let me create his back story, his much like myself, I come from quite a few different backgrounds The things with these characters is that I have two Asian friends that Iíve talked to about their culture and a few friends who are Irish-Australian and both groups have cleared up what they consider offensive and not. My MC is also a kind of a Mary Sue. His has the opposite personality to another aboriginal character I read about in a book. The character in the book was a good clean cut guy who comes from a bad home but made a good life for himself. While my MC has huge personality flaws and acts like the tough guy but thatís just a defense thing but he also comes from a bad neighborhood. I guess my MC is kind of like the character from the book except before he made a future for himself, in my story My MC starts to make a better life for him. I hate how Aboriginals are cast into the role that they are from the bad side of town and have no future and at the start thatís all my MC sees himself as. but his not, he has so much potential But in my story I will have to make a few of them the bad guys and I no that I shouldn't treat a race differently and be concerned about if I portray a few badly but I am. I learnt so much about the wrong done to aboriginals and I'm not here to make that wound deeper.
I guess Iím scared to dive into a culture that I know nothing about in fear of offending and getting facts wrong, so will take your advice to research this thoroughly.

Alice.S
09-02-2008, 04:32 AM
As far as "rules" go, I don't know where Alice lives, but I never grew up with such a bizarre taboo.

I guess I got scared a bit, at school we learn about the wrong done to aboriginals, and I see it in the news and other media and documentaries.

Once we had a lady come to our school (she wasn't from an aboriginal background) and she kind of made it seem that my ancestors killed and tortured aboriginals, she told us we should be ashamed, and I do feel bad about what happened and I'm sad that Australia has such a dark history I feel that lady was kind of wrong. I mean, for the little I know about my family history (my father doesn't have contact with his family,--I was the unwanted abomination in their eyes. And my motherís family-which is only her parents, moved back to Italy.) I know that both sides come from overseas during the 50's and 60ís, so how could they have done harm? I think the way my school goes about teaching us is a little wrong. I mean, yes, tell me about the history of my country but donít get someone to put me down about it and make me feel like a monster.

Tachyon
09-02-2008, 05:42 AM
Once we had a lady come to our school (she wasn't from an aboriginal background) and she kind of made it seem that my ancestors killed and tortured aboriginals, she told us we should be ashamed, and I do feel bad about what happened and I'm sad that Australia has such a dark history I feel that lady was kind of wrong. I mean, for the little I know about my family history (my father doesn't have contact with his family,--I was the unwanted abomination in their eyes. And my motherís family-which is only her parents, moved back to Italy.) I know that both sides come from overseas during the 50's and 60ís, so how could they have done harm? I think the way my school goes about teaching us is a little wrong. I mean, yes, tell me about the history of my country but donít get someone to put me down about it and make me feel like a monster.
That sounds like a horrible way to educate people. I acknowledge that governments and ancestors have exploited and done terrible things to the indigenous people of countries, but I do not believe in passing such sins down the line of descent. Then again, that's a political matter, and subject to varying opinions.

Writing is supposed to be a learning experience. I understand your trepidation, but what you're doing is cool--you're going to learn about another culture. Then if your book gets published, your readers will learn through you, and you will have helped dispel ignorance about Aboriginal culture. You'll be doing the opposite of what those who came before us did.

Alice.S
09-02-2008, 06:21 AM
Writing is supposed to be a learning experience. I understand your trepidation, but what you're doing is cool--you're going to learn about another culture. Then if your book gets published, your readers will learn through you, and you will have helped dispel ignorance about Aboriginal culture. You'll be doing the opposite of what those who came before us did.

Wow! I didn't see it like that. Your words have made my day!! thank you!

Mac H.
09-02-2008, 07:36 AM
What a great subject.

For example, the African American culture has certain 'rules' about the 'n_gger' word. The American culture generally has certain 'taboos' about the 'c_nt' word. So it isn't particularly surprising that every other culture on earth has 'rules' or 'guidelines' about other equally logical/illogical things.

The problem is that if they aren't our culture then how do we know what things are respectful and which things aren't? Obviously this issue applies mainly if you WANT to be respectful .. but even if you don't want to be respectful then there are still other limitations .. like believability. For example, if you set your story in a typical office environment in the USA, and your story had a worker who regularly called his female boss a 'c_nt' to her face, then American readers would expect certain consequences to his actions. If you don't understand the culture, you just wouldn't make it believable ... or at the very least give a different image of this worker in the reader's mind than you intended.

In writing about Aboriginal characters, there are some curiosities in language. In my EXTREMELY limited experience, for example, calling someone a 'dog' is a HUGE insult, whereas certain American insults have no impact at all. But that might have been a curiosity of one tiny area.

One handy thing to remember is that the character in your book of ethnic group 'X' is simply one character's point of view - it is never a reflection of an entire culture's point-of-view. If you try and imply anything else then you WILL offend people, because you'll be telling them 'I'm not of your culture .. but this is your opinion on this subject'. For example, the person I've known best who was Aboriginal was a rabid Star Trek fan - his hobby at the time was translating Linux manuals into Klingon. I suspect that wasn't a typical Aboriginal past-time, but if I had him as a character and I tried to imply that his entire culture was like that, then I would be offending all the non-Trekkies out there. In fact, just by using the wrong word (Trekkies .v. Treckers) I'm probably labelling this entire post as being obviously written by an outsider with no knowledge of that culture at all!

Good luck,

Mac

(PS:
Then if your book gets published, your readers will learn through you, and you will have helped dispel ignorance about Aboriginal cultureIf that is your intention, then you'd better make sure that really are dispelling ignorance .. which means that your research needs to be good, and you need to avoid falling back on stereotypes ... either positive or negative. It is a LOT harder than it sounds - I suspect our brain naturally tries to classify things.)

(PPS: If you are applying for funding, there are other guidelines as well)

Mandy-Jane
09-02-2008, 08:16 AM
I think it's important that all Australians are well aware of the mistreatment that the British settlers handed out to the aborigines. It was horrible, cruel and unfair. Since the national "sorry day" that we recently had, many Australians have become much more sympathetic to the cause of the aboriginals. Maybe that lady that came to the school went about it in totally the wrong way, but it's still something that people need to be made aware of.

On another note, I recently worked with a woman who was writing a play about a famous Australian explorer who, it's said by some, was responsible for a horrible massacre of local aboriginals. She was very careful to get the support of the local tribes, as she didn't want to appear to be telling the story of this "great" man who had savagely killed many of their ancestors. Some of the tribes were very much against the project and didn't want it to go ahead. Only through careful meetings with them and listening to their viewpoints, was it ever able to happen. Understandably, they are very emotional about certain aspects of their past and I think this is the original line of questioning that Alice S may have had.

Alice.S
09-02-2008, 12:29 PM
Thanks Mac,

Yes, I agree strongly with your points. In fact your whole post has provided me with thoughts and considerations, especially your point on
..the character in your book of ethnic group 'X' is simply one character's point of view - it is never a reflection of an entire culture's point-of-view. also not letting the cultural group fall into stereotypes.

Alice.S
09-02-2008, 12:33 PM
I think it's important that all Australians are well aware of the mistreatment that the British settlers handed out to the aborigines. It was horrible, cruel and unfair. Since the national "sorry day" that we recently had, many Australians have become much more sympathetic to the cause of the aboriginals. Maybe that lady that came to the school went about it in totally the wrong way, but it's still something that people need to be made aware of.

Understandably, they are very emotional about certain aspects of their past and I think this is the original line of questioning that Alice S may have had.

Yes, it was my original line of questioning. I was affraid of offeneding a culture. I also agree that we must be aware of our dark past to help us move forward as a united nation in understanding each race, culture and religion.

Thank you Mandy-Jane :)

stuckupmyownera
09-02-2008, 02:27 PM
And another thing - and perhaps I'm a bit late in adding this, but someone else's words made me think of it:

I'm a Christian. In the media, on the street, at work and even among friends, nobody thinks twice about insulting my God or my religion, on an almost daily basis.

:)

IceCreamEmpress
09-02-2008, 10:37 PM
I'm a Christian. In the media, on the street, at work and even among friends, nobody thinks twice about insulting my God or my religion, on an almost daily basis.

I'm Christian, too, and I hear much worse and much more passionate insults leveled at Islam and Judaism, as well as at atheists and agnostics. But this may be a US thing, I don't know. I am appalled by the ignorant things I hear people say about Islam, especially, in public places.


Back to Alice's point: Alice, if you want to portray an Aboriginal character respectfully, do research. Read as many autobiographies by Aboriginal writers as you can get your hands on.

stuckupmyownera
09-03-2008, 02:18 AM
I'm Christian, too, and I hear much worse and much more passionate insults leveled at Islam and Judaism, as well as at atheists and agnostics. But this may be a US thing, I don't know. I am appalled by the ignorant things I hear people say about Islam, especially, in public places.

Oh, absolutely. It's the same here. Walked past some anti-muslim grafitti just today that made my skin crawl. (Though atheists and agnostics get it pretty easy here - they're generally the ones doing the insulting.)
My point is just that religious/cultural slurs are so everyday and commonplace in our world that I'm amazed one particular culture gets (in some communities at least) such special treatment!

But I think we've figured this one out now. Just wanted to add another two cents. Don't mind me :D


ETA: I don't just mean malice, anyway - in terms of the commonplace, it's more usually just ignorance, jest, or simply lack of reverence for that which I (or whoever) revere(s) very highly.

FinbarReilly
09-03-2008, 03:54 AM
Just because:

Until recently, the Australian government was doing its level best to eliminate the Aborigine culture. This meant that religious practices were essentially outlawed, that children needed to be fostered (usually by the government), and that Aborigines were supposed to integrate into white culture. I would suggest starting with Rabbit-Proof Fence, and using that bibliography in order to use as research....

If it helps....

RG

PS: Feel lucky you aren't a Christian posting to a gay forum...

Alice.S
09-03-2008, 10:24 AM
Just because:

Until recently, the Australian government was doing its level best to eliminate the Aborigine culture. This meant that religious practices were essentially outlawed, that children needed to be fostered (usually by the government), and that Aborigines were supposed to integrate into white culture. I would suggest starting with Rabbit-Proof Fence, and using that bibliography in order to use as research....

If it helps....

RG

PS: Feel lucky you aren't a Christian posting to a gay forum...


Thank you, yes I'll look at Rabbit proof fence and we studied it last year in history so hopefully I have to notes!

ideagirl
09-03-2008, 08:25 PM
I have never heard of such rules. Lots of people write (and paint, sing, etc.) about cultures which are not their own. Why should aboriginals get special treatment? Why would they be ultra sensitive (more so than anyone else) about how they are represented?

I don't think the issue is "rules" or even Aboriginals. The actual issue here is that these days it's a delicate matter for a white person to write a character who's a member of a group that, until rather recently, white people abused and oppressed. I'm not at all saying it can't be done, but I am saying you have to really, REALLY REALLY, do your research, and be mindful of the possibility that you might be treading on delicate ground (translation: make sure, double-triple sure, that you avoid all possible cliches, stereotypes, etc.).

Izunya
09-04-2008, 05:20 AM
Hmm . . . you might want to look up Tony Hillerman (I think that's the right guy), an American mystery writer who put himself in much the same position. He's white, but he has an ongoing series featuring a Navajo detective. The tensions there are analogous, from what I know of Australia.

(As an aside: Alice, don't think that Australia is the only country with a nasty past. The USA has both the slavery thing and horrific treatment of the Native Americans. And—in my opinion—while we white people need to stay aware of history, personal guilt is often kind of counterproductive. I mean, I don't know about you, but I can paralyze myself with guilt, to the point where I have trouble talking to people I feel guilty toward, and how exactly does that help anyone?)

So, anyhow, you might want to find out what sort of research Hillerman did before he started his series.

Izunya

IceCreamEmpress
09-04-2008, 05:39 AM
The Australian government, as I understand it, discourages non-Aboriginal people from recreating Aboriginal groups' specific religious rituals and religious art "for fun" or for profit.

Alice S., that's not what you're talking about doing at all. Writers who are not Aboriginal themselves do depict Aboriginal characters. On the other hand, Thomas Keneally said that he would not have written The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith today. So it's something to think about--would your work be salable in today's marketplace?

comradebunny
09-05-2008, 06:09 AM
I think you need to make a decision about whether your character has any knowledge of his culture. If he was raised by parents who rejected the culture (this happens) it will influence who he is.

My best advice is to contact someone from the aboriginal tribe you would like your character to be from (I'm not sure of Austrailia, but in the U.S., the tribes are very diverse). Let them know what you are doing and ask for guidence. I currently live on a reservation (although I am non-native), and I have found that my community is very open and willing to help educate others about their culture. This could help ease some of your worries.