The Lajamanu Warlpiri community and the democratising power of YouTube
In a week when the headlines are all about media moguls and their doings, there is a another media story going on which is about the democratising power of new media, writes Margaret Simons.
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In a week when the headlines are all about media moguls and their doings, there is a another media story which is about the democratising power of new media.
Anyone who doubts the ability of the internet to allow people who are normally overlooked to make their own stories heard should look at this.
It is a recording made by the elders of the Lajamanu Warlpiri community of the northwest Tanami region to protest at the violation by police of their gender specific sacred business.
It is surely the first time that the importance of ancient Aboriginal ceremonial tradition has been defended on YouTube.
Each year at about this time, the Lajamanu Warlpiri community holds an important men’s initiation ceremony. The traditional culture is sharply divided on gender lines, with both men and women having “business” from which members of the opposite s-x are excluded. The men’s initiation ceremony is called the Kurdiji and lasts for several weeks.
This year the ceremony was interrupted when police – including a female police officer — entered the restricted ceremony area at a time when women were meant to be excluded.
Nevertheless the resulting pain and hurt has resulted in this YouTube posting of a passionate piece of advocacy from the senior men of the community. Their complaints are summed up by these concluding words from Martin Japanangka:
Canberra is a sacred place for government people to meet and people with authority and we respect that. Why can’t police department and police women and men respect our sacred sites and our law?
Since the video was posted, Northern Territory police have apologised for the incident. The intrusion was accidental, and they were on routine police business.
The words and the sentiments are the elders’ own, but the man who made this posting possible was filmmaker Stewart Carter, a whitefella who is living in the community. Carter is behind the company People Pictures. His multiple credits for documentaries and the like are here and he is presently doing work with the Warlpiri Media Association.
There have been other YouTube postings, including this striking explanation by an elder of Warlpiri culture.
Warlpiri produces content for Indigenous community television and radio and a wealth of other material. One of Warlpiri’s best known outputs was the astounding Bush Mechanics documentary, but as their website shows, there is a great deal else going on as well.
This is a story about the importance of access to content making resources, including community television and the internet.
Nice to have some evidence that not everything happening in media concerns the shuffling of ownership between very rich men.