In South Australia, artists are at the forefront of the nuclear-free movement
Artists paint the truth of SA nuclear la la land https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=50616#.WKpGiNJ97Gg Michele Madigan | 12 February 2017
‘It will be your artists: the poets, painters, actors, dancers, musicians, orators — they will be the ones to lead the changes.’ It was one of the many international invited guests, a Maori woman speaker, who made this prediction to the huge 40,000 strong crowd; to the 30,000 First Nations people from across the nation and 10,000 of us non-Aboriginal supporters who had joined them enroute to Hyde Park, Sydney, on 26 January 1988.
In South Australia almost 30 years later, this prophecy continues to unfold in the ongoing high-stakes battle for country that surrounds the proposed nuclear waste dump.
The orators have been long leading the way. ‘We can’t sell that country — we can’t sell it. Just like selling your own kid, own grandmother, own grandfather,’ said Arabunna Elder Kevin Buzzacott at the 1998 Global Survival and Indigenous Rights Conference in Melbourne 1998.
Tjunmutja Myra Watson told the Olympic Games international media, Botany Bay, 2000: ‘We already lost everything at Maralinga’ — the site of the 1950s and 1960s British nuclear tests.
‘We thought that Maralinga would be the last one … We love our land … We got the Dreaming, we got the songs and we got the culture. We’re going to fight to keep it. Let’s keep it, let’s keep the country, not this man coming in and digging up our spirit and our land and all our songs. They’re spoiling it when they put the poison in. They’re taking everything and they did it before.’
They are joined in the struggle by other artists: painters Eileen Wani Wingfield and Eileen Unkari Crombie; dancers Eileen Kampakuta Brown, Edie Nyimpula King and other Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, dancing for protection of country in the bush; singers like Ivy Makinti Stewart, whose astonishing voice filled the Adelaide Town Hall with the lament of the Seven Sisters: Irati Wanti — the poison — leave it!
Long before that there was Victor Tunkin’s ‘Maralinga’ classic:
Where the red dust flows across the land
There’s a place where my people used to stand
Where the Maralinga bomb went off that day.
It’s my father’s land you see.
And it’s calling out inside of me.
Since 2015, in the face of the new threat of being swamped with international high level nuclear waste as well as Australia’s intermediate and low level waste, the newer generation have emerged. Painters such as Mima Smart, Rita Tjunkuna Bryant. Musicians such as Johnny Lovett and the Yalata band.
Among the many orators is Adnyamathanya Vivianne McKenzie: ‘As a member of the First Nations I want to ask you that when you go home tonight, to look at your children or your grandchildren. In other words look in the mirror. What do want them to know — that you voted for this waste coming to South Australia? Or that you voted against it?’ (Citizens Jury 2016)
In the first weeks of 2017, Adelaide Weekend Advertiser readers have been exposed to two rather more mainstream artists, deeply concerned about the same phenomena. On 28 January, South Australian arts icon Robyn Archer told of of her connection to her home state. Titled ‘Into the Unknown’, it devoted half a page to her specific concern, urging ‘a future built on risk-taking and creativity, not nuclear dumps’.
Mainly what I’m thinking … is the arrogance with which any human here thinks they can predict what nature will do even tomorrow, let alone in ten, 100, 1000, 10,000, 100,000 years. Because a royal commission has now declared nuclear storage safe to consider, and we South Australians are being asked to share the commissioners confidence …
‘We love the state, its natural beauty, splendid produce … For those of us who love the place some of the damage is already done. Many who have worked hard at building South Australia’s cultural reputation see that reputation being eaten away by the prospect of the state becoming labelled a dump. It risks becoming a laughing stock … ‘
A week later, on 4 February, acclaimed South Australian film director Scott Hicks’ satirical piece ‘Nuclear fantasy has a real Oscar glow!’ was given a page of its own. The ‘imagined email from a hotshot producer’ opened: ‘Loved your pitch, Scott! What a premise! Who could imagine that anyone would build a Nuclear Waste Dump in such a dazzling landscape? And import toxic waste into a state so proud of its clean environment — Hilarious! I’m thinking musical comedy … ‘ And it closed: ‘ … Scott. This has Oscar written all over it! Forget about La La Land — mind you, that would have been a good title. Let’s talk.’
As the Bicentenary Maori visitor declared, the artists see. And help us see.
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