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Weight Lifting - One Hundred Days - 089


Decorated skateboards in the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. Aboriginal (or aboriginal-inspired) art meets modern objects.
Decorated skateboards in the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. Aboriginal (or aboriginal-inspired) art meets modern objects.

Browsing through the Ian Potter Centre of Australian art, part of the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne on our recent trip, I found a great deal of the indigenous art both compelling & completely baffling. Partly because I have no background, experience or knowledge of aboriginal art or culture, and partly because some of it has been given a modern art context which adds further impenetrable levels for someone 'not in the know'.

I have an eye for pattern, for arrangement, for colour; for beauty if you like. I can photograph something for its visual identity without any knowledge of the context or meaning. I can appreciate the beauty of form & the artistry of craftsmanship without being embroiled in social or political debates. This is why I find it hard to appreciate art that demands a knowledge of context, that has little meaning outside of its own time bubble. I loved these skateboards for their colour, their presentation. I have no idea if there are deeper meanings or if they were just a bit of fun, but I enjoyed them. So, although as a photographer I prefer to remain outside of political & social debates so I can observe independently, I was intrigued enough to look up the dietary history of aboriginal people. It will surprise no-one to know that their diet changed dramatically with the colonisation of Australia, much to their detriment.

I found an excellent article on the Weston Price Foundation website that gave some interesting historical perspectives. Weston Price was a travelling researcher in the 1930's & for him, the Aborigines represented the paradigm of moral & physical perfection. Their skills in hunting, tracking & food gathering were unsurpassed. Their social organisation allowed for schooling children from very young & respect and care for a sizeable number of old people. Price's photographs of Aborigines on their native diets illustrate dental structures so perfect you might suspect they were wearing false teeth. But they soon succumbed to rampant tooth decay and disease of every type when they adopted their coloniser's modern foods - white flour and sugar, jams, canned foods and tea. Children born to the next generation developed irregularities of the dental arches with conspicuous facial deformities…

It is our stubbornly held belief that our ways are best that has led to our current dietary crisis. We have lost touch with the land, with the source of our food, with an appreciation of what elements provide what fuel or flavour in our foodstuffs. There is so much we should have, and still could, learn from indigenous people around the world, if we simply stopped judging & started listening, observing & learning.

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