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1HERSA1 0035
The Sydney Morning Herald JANUARY 12-13, 2013 SPECTRUM 35
Diverse ... (clockwise from main) a
kapa (bark clot...
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  1. 1. 1HERSA1 0035 The Sydney Morning Herald JANUARY 12-13, 2013 SPECTRUM 35 Diverse ... (clockwise from main) a kapa (bark cloth), made by Hawaiian Maile Andrade, 2009; a tortoise- shell mask from the Torres Strait Islands, collected in the late 19th century; Maori sculptor Tene Waitere’s wood-carved faces. ing of ancient female figures. Between these extremes are images as diverse as an early 19th-century figure from Vanuatu painted in Reck- itt’s Blue (now in the Louvre), a 17th-century engraving of Fletcher Christian’s Tongan club,tourists with painted faces while on ‘‘cannibal tours’’, the famous double figure that was thrown into Lake Sentani for protection against a government ban, then dredged up in 1929 and sold to the French dealer Jacques Viot, and a graphic portrait of Bob Marley on a bus shelter. In this history, influence, like the tides of the ocean, runs in more than one direction, and we come to understand the paradox of art prac- tices whose lines of development extend back over centuries, yet are always contemporary in the sense of being of their time – fluid and adaptive as they accommodate and interpret waves of change and exchange that began long before any European ship arrived. If all this sounds diverse and complex, it is. And yet Art in Oceania opens with disarming ease. As a book it is a beautiful object, curated as if for an exhibi- tion, its complexity resolved by design. The historical essays are rather like canoe paths and naviga- tional routes across a great ocean. Scattered among them are islands made up of the images, and also of ‘‘voices’’ and ‘‘features’’ identified by separately coloured pages. You’ll come across, for instance, a two- page feature on Gauguin’s ‘‘house of pleasure’’ where the door was framed by carved wooden panels that are now in the Musee d’Orsay, and where he suffered miserably at the end of his life despite the fishing pole (sketched into his diagram) that was lowered from the back to retrieve absinthe bottles cooling in the well. Pages later you’ll hear the voice of artist Dan Taulapapa McMullin say that though he, too, can be seduced by Gauguin, he takes him with a ‘‘twist of lime’’. Among the earliest voices is a chant addressed to the sea – ‘‘O viol- ent sea, milk sea, mad sea/Deliri- ous, numbing sea’’ – beseeching it to protect its island people. This was collected by a Hawaiian scholar and published in 1869. Today a Hawaiian rapper cries for the squat- ters on the beach, ‘‘fishing from our own waters’’. Just try and run us over with your damn bulldozer. And Hau’ofa reminds the people of the islands as they migrate across the world that ‘‘the ocean in us’’ will dry up if not fed by the contemplation of a history that, here, is represen- ted through the prism of art. Art in Oceania: A New History may seem an extravagance. But if you consider that these days even the best of novels can be ill designed, printed on cheap paper and still cost $30,itcouldberegardedasabargain. Drusilla Modjeska’s latest book is The Mountain (Vintage). Alleviating the beasts’ burden Review by Angela Young Animal rights THE 2013 VOICELESS ANTHOLOGY Selected by J.M. Coetzee, et al Allen & Unwin, 240pp, $22.99 T he task of selecting the stories and essays for this anthology about human-animal relations could not have been an easy one. The Nobel-prize winning author J.M. Coetzee, along with a former director of the Sydney Writers’ Festival, Wendy Were, the Herald literary editor, Susan Wyndham, and the founder of the organisation sponsoring this new writing prize, Ondine Sherman, had to choose the best entries to reflect what the thinktank Voiceless strives towards: promoting respect, compassion and understanding of those creatures devoid of any voice in our human-dominated world. The resulting collection is impressively varied and, I was pleasantly surprised to find, not bursting at the seams with emotive language and horrific tales of gore – as this field can be. Leading us gently into the arena, Meera Atkinson’s Confessions of a Vegetarian is a well-structured account of the ethical dilemmas faced by many animal lovers struggling to make the whole sacrifice. Still wearing leather shoes and eating dairy products are just two of the flaws she acknowledges make her a hypocrite. Her concise argument is a measured one, making use of reason and research. Contrasting beautifully with Atkinson’s straightforward approach, They Are Not Voiceless is a group effort from the Bawaka country indigenous community, with much to teach whitefellas about how nature should be treated. The lyrical, intimate, interactive style of the prose is a pleasure to read, with the additional charm of offering an insight into a much- ignored way of living and hunting. As in several of the pieces, former journalist, author and farmer Anne Coombs extols the necessity of animals for consumption, suggesting that cruelty is the unacceptable factor. Citing the likes of renowned ethicist Peter Singer and US ‘‘farmer guru’’ Joel Salatin, she constructs a sensible argument – nothing to anger the vegetarians too much. With a profligation of adjectival prose, Darren Chard’s The Horses is a sinister tale. Though not to my taste, it is nevertheless quite an elegant effort. Both utterly harrowing, Olga Kotnowska’s The Other Days and Jessica Stanley’s Not Long Now reach in and tug viciously at the heart strings, placing the kangaroo in the centre of a desperate, vulnerable and realistic situation. These yarns, perhaps more than any of the others, are sure to strike a chord with readers. Once more focusing on the nation’s most recognisable marsupial, Kangaroo by barrister Craig Simpson is a standout piece of fiction. Albeit simple in form and style, its dramatic conclusion resonates loudly. Particularly effective for the younger reader, though by no means solely for that audience, is Wayne Strudwick’s Caged. Cleverly using the teen angst of his protagonist as a vehicle, he effectively illustrates the horrors carefully hidden inside the enormous sheds of factory farms by those with heavily vested interests. One can’t help but wish for more here – a larger collection, perhaps, and more areas tackled. Butthis anthology accomplishes the master stroke of elucidating – entertainingly, in the main – a multifaceted message about a controversial issue, without leaving the reader utterly depressed, distressed or, indeed, bored. For FREE 32-page Summer Course Catalogue call 9264 2781 or check out WEA proudly marks its Centenary Year as Sydney’s own Community College, offering over 300 short courses for Summer Courses held day, evening and at the weekend! Sydney’s best courses enrolling now! WEA House is equipped with proper entry for disabled students WEA700SMH The city’s own Community College at 72 Bathurst St – just 2 minutes from Town Hall Station. CATEGORIES INCLUDE: •LANGUAGES •COMPUTERS •BUSINESS & CAREERS •ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT •HUMANITIES