Living Data: <br> Inclusion

Living Data:
Inclusion

2018 Conversations

Disclaimers, Copyrights and Citations

Conversations/Index 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019

On Tuesday 19th June I speak with Scott Fenson who distinguishes between standard English and the diverse Indigenous languages of Australia. He explains this in a way I have not heard before, but that on reflection makes perfect sense: we experience Indigenous languages as we experience making art, as forming through connection to country. Scott (Whiskers) Fenson grew up in Parkes NSW. We met at Eora Aboriginal College where we are learning Indigenous Australian languages: he Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi, me Bundjalung. We share a passion for making animations as a way to reconnect with our Indigenous culture. I record our conversation in the rooftop greenhouse in the Faculty of Science at the University of Technology Sydney.

 

Winnanna / Yindyamarra: An all-encompassing respect for everything

Scott:
I can only talk of what I see and what I experience and how it affects me. For myself, identity is quite difficult because... well I was raised... I was thinking about being civilized, the other day, and one of the reasons I know I'm civilized - and I do it for work health and safety now - is my shoes. 'Cause you don't want to wear those shoes. If you wear no shoes, you must be an Aboriginal. I didn't really understand that logic. It didn't make sense to me. And there's a whole heap of things, as I was growing up, just didn't make sense. They make sense now when I think about culture as being selfish. When I speak to people and they say, We need to start giving up some things, like really making some changes in terms of electricity use and the destruction of the environment, and what we're doing to the oceans and the rivers and the lands. And when it comes down to it, we're addicted to this culture and we don't want to give up these things. .

Lisa:
When you say 'this culture', you're talking about the culture that the Europeans brought to Australia...

Scott:
Definitely, and in terms... I think... it's pretty well known that it's 40.000 years - I think it's longer, but most people would agree that it's 40,000 years, for 40,000 years this country was pristine. And within three years of the Europeans' arrival that Tank Streamwas destroyed. Now there's no Tank Stream. And it's not just here is Sydney where these things are occurring. It's wherever they plant their feet. And it's not respectful. So having done Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi [Indigenous languages], two very similar words, Winnanna and Yindyamarra, I like to think of them as meaning respect, but it's not respect in terms of you and I, it's not in terms of self-respect. It's an all-encompassing respect of everything. A love, a connectedness.

 

We need to be talking more

Scott (Whiskers) Fenson grew up in Parkes NSW. We met at Eora Aboriginal College where we are learning Indigenous Australian languages. We share a passion for making animations as a way to reconnect with our Indigenous culture. I record our conversation in the rooftop greenhouse in the Faculty of Science at the University of Technology Sydney.

On Tuesday 19th June Scott Fenson speaks about Indigenous identity and language.

Scott:
And that's the respect that... we don't have ... 'cause it is ... like I said, I'm new to the Aboriginal world. I've travelled the world, looking at many cultures, and the only one's that made a heap of sense to me are the more natural ones, the ones that look at us being part of the ecosystem rather then being ... better than the ecosystem. There's a saying and hopefully I'll get it right. That, with great power comes great responsibility. Well we have more power than ever before and I don't see humans using it as ... in a responsible way. And we need to be talking more and more and more I'm talking to everybody about Winnanna and Yindyamarra and what that means, not only in terms of a definition but in terms of myself and what I see and how I see it.

 

Nature's Language (Indigenous), Consumer's Language (English)

Lisa:
We talked before about Indigenous languages that we're learning, you an I, as more than just words, more than just a way of organising logical sequential thoughts. How would you describe your experience, your understanding of Indigenous languages that we're working to understand now? How are they different from English?

Scott:
Great question. I'm not entirely sure how to answer that except a lot more of it seems based around Winnanna and Yindyamarra. Like it seems like all words may have once stemmed from this connectedness, so that there is... It seems more natural to me in terms of, it is a nature's language, or it feels like a nature's language, whereas English seems to be more a consumer's language - we're speaking to get what we want. I was once a salesman in a much younger life and something that rang true in a profession where a lot of things didn't ring true - one comment: "You've got two of these [ears] and one of these [mouth]. Use them in the ratio." And I find that a lot more with the Aboriginal languages where you have to ... maybe it's because I'm just learning at the moment, but you... it's more about listening than talking. It seems more succinct and less verbose... and look, I have been to a few Aboriginal events and they can talk. However, their speeches tent to e a lot shorter, a lot more to the point, and then the other side gets up, the civilized side, and ... here we go - and they do love to talk in front of a crowd. But like I said I'm just learning the language so that's what I've found so far, it seems more attuned to nature, rather than commercial.

Lisa:
When you say it's more attuned to nature, I'm wondering if it's similar to my experience of learning Bundjalung, and my experience of learning that is that I'm not just learning this word, like, this word means the same as that word in English - there's no equivalence, of just words. It's like we're learning the shape, and the feel and the sound and the touch, of some experience of interaction...

Scott:
And not just the language, but the country where the language is. I think that's one of the things. It's part of the country as much as the country is part of the language. Like you said, the touch and the feel, the sound.
Numbers are a good one - in Bunjalung I'm not sure if it's the same but - the way I had it described to me is that in Wiradjuri there's five numbers and then there's lots. And yes you can build numbers. But when I think about it, there's one kangaroo, there's two kangaroos, there's three kangaroos, there's four kangaroos, there's five, wow, there's lots of kangaroos. And that's all you really need, unless you're going to get commercial.

Lisa:
And calculating.

Scott:
And calculating, yes.

Lisa:
I think I'm going to stop it there. There's so much more we can talk about. And we will.

Scott:
Absolutely.