Thursday, October 30, 2014

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Aborigines Use Cellphones to Capture Their Culture

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Remote clans of Aborigines in Australia who were communicating via smoke signals not too long ago were given cellphones to capture their culture as part of a project called Gapuwiyak Calling. NY1's Adam Balkin filed the following report.

Small, grainy videos may not seem like much to us living in the U.S. with state-of-the-art cameras embedded in the cellphones we all carry, but they take on added significance when you learn that they are videos taken by remote clans of Aborigines in the northern Australia village of Gapuwiyak that are so remote that some clan members there remember a not-too-distant past when they sent messages to one another with smoke signals and didgeridoos.

A few years ago, they were given cellphones to capture their culture as part of a project called Gapuwiyak Calling. This final project installation was recently on display at the American Museum of Natural History as part of the Margaret Mead Film Festival, named after the famed cultural anthropologist.

"This is such a manifestation of Margaret Mead's original idea of having media, giving media to the communities that actually tell these stories, and they can tell those stories about themselves using new technologies," says Bella Desai of the American Museum of Natural History.

As for the concern that bringing technology into traditional communities could potentially ruin many of those traditions, Aborigines say it's for that very reason that they're being careful with exactly how the technology is being used.

"In our law, we have to balance both cultures, balanda and yolngu, and you have to mix together," says Enid Wunundmurra of "Gapuwiyak Calling."

Balanda refers to the Australians of European decent. Yolngu is another word for native Aborigines.

"The elders were very clear that this should be a show that celebrates young people using the phone in a good way, making connections with their kin and with their ancestors, and to show a kind of mastery of new technology that says, 'Look. We can be in both worlds,'" says Jennifer Deger, an anthropologist at James Cook University.

To check out more from the project, find it at www.gapuwiyak.com.au.

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