6 Apr 2010

Kanyini: great film

A couple of weeks ago I had a few days holiday and visited family in Devon I also had my first stay in Totnes - Stroud Green party recently twinned with Totnes Green party (see here) and of course it was the first Transition Town in England. Anyway my visit happened to cooincide with one of their Transition events - a film and talk about Kanyini.

Well I wasn't sure about going on a wet evening but am very glad I did walk down into the town. Indeed I hope I can help organise a showing locally. Kanyini was voted "best documentary" at the London Australian Film Festival 2007 - and was also winner of the Inside Film Independent Spirit Award and the winner of the Discovery Channel Best Documentary Award in 2006.

The film's story is told by an Aboriginal man, Bob Randall, who lives beside the greatest monolith in the world, Uluru in Central Australia - known, perhaps disrespectfully, as Ayers Rock to many. It is based on Bob's own personal journey and the wisdom he learnt from the old people living in the bush. He tells in not uncertain terms the tale of why Indigenous people are now struggling in a modern world and what needs to be done for Indigenous people to move forward. It is inspiring and uplifting with much hope.

As the website says: "A tale of Indigenous wisdom clashing against materialist notions of progress, this is not only a story of one man and his people but the story of the human race."

After the film Jo Lathan (pictured) who is friends with Bob spoke passionately about the film and answered questions - then came a very moving couple of readings by Jo from Bill Neidjie’s Story About Feeling - see more details here. I have a copy of the book and if you can get past the language it opens wonderfully....and 'links personal discovery to a sense of nature' - and 'restores us to a wisdom that is at once powerful and fresh'.

Satish Kumar has written an excellent article in Resurgence magazine that summarises the essence of the four principles of aboriginal life that Bob puts across so well in the film - see it here. I was also interested to hear that Jo Lathan runs walking retreats on Dartmoor - Wyldheart - see more here. Sounds special - she can be emailed on joanna (at) wyldheart.co.uk

See the Kanyini website here: www.kanyini.com/

Nearly 25 years ago I worked for Community Aid Abroad (now Oxfam) in their Sydney Office and was fortunate to meet a number of aboriginal people. I had a 6 month contract and many wonderful experiences from initiating Sydney's largest foreign film festival, a massive fund raising walkathon and for the first time getting Sydneys aid and development agencies to sit around the table.

One issue I had some involvement with was Aboriginal deaths in custody - it was increasingly becoming an issue in Australia at the time I was there - there was a growing perception that a disproportionate number of indigenous Australians were dying in jail after being arrested by police - a perception that these deaths may be being caused, either directly or indirectly, by the police and prison authorities. Certainly I remember hearing terrible stories. Strangely many mainstream organisations at the time seemed reluctant to join too publicly in the voices calling for action - although we did speak out in Sydney.

I left in 1986 but remember being delighted the following year that voices of protest were being heard - the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was established in 1987 to investigate the problem. Although I have to say while things have improved the situation still sounds not great - in 2005, an indigenous Australian was 11 times more likely to be in prison than a non-Indigenous Australian, and in 2003, 20% of prisoners in Australia were Indigenous, and 10 of the 39 deaths that occurred in prison custody (26%) were Indigenous.

I read that only last month another death in Queensland has led to a march on the Parliament there - see Brisbane Times here. Can we not learn?

Kanyini shows a way to understand ourselves and aborigines more - it is well worth a look. A big thank you to Jo for bringing it to the UK.

PS This article had a couple of corrections made on 7th April 2009: the author of Resurgence article and Jo's email added.


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