Friday, November 10, 2017

Women fishing, Lake Tyers Gippsland, 1860's

c 1867 credit; Carl Walter

Finding a photo like this is very exciting for so many reasons. Of course any photograph from this period is special from a technical point of view, as well as sociological and historical points of view. This one was taken around the time our boat 'Beachcomber' was built, in the same district.

The world at the time was in several sorts of turmoil, particularly the bitter divisions in North America where communities suffered from the colossal bloodshed of civil war. It was a period of rampant exploitative trade bullying and drug (opium) pushing in India and China by the East India Trading Company and subsequent involvement by the British Government.

The vast colonial experiment was being felt by First Peoples all over the 'discovered' world.

But this is a picture of dignity and serenity; women going about the business of living co-operatively and productively and in ways that had worked very well for them for tens of thousands of years. Some of the great great grandchildren of these women are probably judged harshly nowadays, for not fitting in or maybe for appearing to  lack motivation, but only by those who haven't really considered the things that have been endured by the generations between then and now.

Their 'wealth'- culturally, linguistically and in access to all that they needed- had been energetically translated into Pounds Sterling and stashed in colonial and British banks, at least until our colony was mature enough to attempt to govern what was left of their lives- but that in itself began paternalistically and in a culturally self-serving way.

By then the damage was so severe that governments ever since have had to face the shame of being impotent to the needs of a really  important part of our world community.

I wish that  our communities could look more generously at the state of some of the survivors now, with a little more understanding of the context of their situation.