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Let’s Go on a Walkabout

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Humans are natural storytellers. Our forefathers spent their nights huddled around a campfire, mapping out their past in the stars. Over the span of generations, oral traditions shifted to glyph paintings and eventually the written word: Beowulf and Iliad and The Odyssey being primary examples. Medieval monks toiled over handwritten copies of religious and secular documents, Gutenberg’s printing press, the first typewriter, the first computer, voice recognition software, and twitter. The future of information gathering and storage is unknown, but it all started with telling a story: recording history and preserving the present for the future generations.

I’ve chosen the promotional trailer and a brief clip of Walkabout, a movie about two English children stranded in the Australian Outback who are rescued by an Aboriginal boy.

Walkabouts are the foundation of Aboriginal culture. The spot of land where an aboriginal’s birth occurs is ceremonially marked. For the rest of their life, a person will know where they are relation to their birth spot. Every major event or experience is also marked by a location and at certain times during an Aboriginal’s life they go on a walkabout to revisit those locations as a rite of passage and reflection.

The topography of the Outback is also anthropomorphized; hills, springs, and trees become animals whose stories are told as moral principles, relatable to the Aboriginal experience. Aboriginals have a strong, primarily oral tradition, and from birth they are told the story of family’s collective Walkabout.

By throwing well educated, upper class English children into this “primitive” world, Walkabout reveals a sharp tension between two cultures, language, and technology. The Aboriginal culture is only one example of cultures who do not see a Western, Cartesian dualism between the natural world and the world of man or the past, present and future. For the Aboriginal the goal of life is to make their way back to their birth spot where they can pass away, become part of the journey.

Topics for Discussion:

  • In what ways does the film show contrasts between the two cultures?
    • Language
    • Technology
    • Social norms
    • Other
  • How could these film clips relevant to the following articles?
    • Plato’s “Phaedrus”
      • The oral tradition beginnings
      • Memory as historical record, storage
  • Vilum Flusser’s  “On Memory”
    • Relationship to the physical world
    • Relationship to the spiritual
  • M.T. Clanchy’s “Introduction” to From Memory to Written Record: England 1066 – 1307
    • Literacy’s effect on prejudice
  • How does the marketing of the film effect the viewer’s perception?
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Written by HiuHiMedia

September 7, 2010 at 10:11 pm