If you didn’t get a chance to catch any events at the Melbourne Writers Festival, Couturing’s Hannah Bambra offers you an exclusive insight into three inspirational and provocative experiences, with three wonderful and intelligent women.
ILLUSTRATOR WALK, BADAUDE
Couturing had the fortune of being taken on a walking tour with celebrated UK illustrator, Joanna Walsh, aka Badaude as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival.
As Melbourne is extremely windy, Badaude shuffled the group into corners of the NGV, Flinders st station, David Jones and Degraves st for some prime people watching. She noticed a woman in all black with a bright red bow tie, a girl with half her head shaved and the rest of her mane pushed to one side and a woman in a striped circus jacket with ruffles billowing from the back. All of which she could capture in one quick, consistent line drawing while the people flew past.
Badaude is primarily a fashion and culture commentator, noticing and scribbling trends and habits of fashionable individuals in different suburbs of London. It is the small choices people make that continue to fascinate her.
Her work expands the notion of what is fashionable, a term she describes to be simply the amalgamation of people making similar choices on how to present themselves. Whether it be rolling up the cuffs on your coat, letting your spotty socks show or tucking in your shirt, even people who do not think they engage with fashion have to make these little decisions.
While most of us rush through our urban landscape, Badaude encouraged us to stop, observe and draw. She spends days at a time going through areas and forming illustrated guides through merging her observations.
Street art, shop fronts, streetscapes and decor also capture her imagination.
Badaude recited to us her favourite quote by Coco Chanel, one that sums up her aesthetic and subject matter, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening”.
BIG IDEAS: INDIGENOUS EXCEPTIONALISM
Couturing spent an afternoon indulging in some academia with feminist, liberator Marcia Langton, who discussed the issue of “indigenous exceptionalism” as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival (and will appear soon on the ABC’s Big Ideas program).
Langton spoke about the need for a referendum to receive constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians. She touched on how sadly most Australians know very little about the constitution. The main challenge which she and a panel of experts see is the poorly understood friction between bringing Aboriginals into our federal policy and letting the culture remain different and unique.
The constitution currently defines Aboriginal people as a race, this means they are exceptional and separate from Australian life. This exceptionalist status includes dehumanisation, exoticism, racism.
People living in social, cultural and economic cultural isolation are denied education, sports teams, infrastructure etc. It is hoped that by replacing the definition of a race with “first people’s”, the race power will be removed and discrimination will subside.
The need to address Aboriginal literacy levels and living conditions is a serious one Langton agreed. Campaigns like ‘close the gap’ are aiming to lessen the third world conditions in central Australian Aboriginal communities. Referring to Indigenous Australians as a race is not the only form of institutional racism Aboriginal people suffer from. Langton shed a light on how deprived of an education, the children in these regional areas are. The national curriculum is entirely watered down and 12 year olds are taught phonetically how to sound out words and do craft. “why would you attend school if you’re asked to sit at the back and stick bits of cotton wool to cardboard,” she said. Denying children of the national curriculum is in her eyes racist child abuse.
Julia Gillard said a while back that the chance to vote on this change of clause will be put to the Australian public.
Many believe that if this is voted against and not passed, the rest of the world will see Australia as a blatantly racist country.
QUEEN VICTORIA WOMEN’S CENTRE KEYNOTE ADDRESS: SPEAKING AUSTRALIAN WITH GERMAINE GREER
In the athenaeum theatre Germaine Greer was able to fulfil the introduction given for her keynote speech. A founder of the writer’s festival welcomed her to the stage and said that she was a “provocative thinker, something the world needs more of”.
Greer added to this thought by expressing her disdain for the way Australian politicians communicate. She said that the desire to be popular led them to “say things no one can disagree with and essentially say nothing at all”.
This comment goes to the heart of why people do and should love Germaine Greer. She is sometimes incorrect or contradictory but she is never censored.
Her address was based around the power and meaning of the Australian rhetoric. She asked the audience if there is an Australian English? Is there an English of different generations? When she grew up there was a great resistance against Americanisms for example, which have only now been embraced by a later, apathetic generation. The changes in our language are, in her opinion, usually indicate a change in attitude, location and upbringing. We each have our personal idiom.
She took us through various, hilarious examples of when this had occurred to her.
“When I first moved to England I kept hearing the word bog, later I learnt this is what they called the toilet. I imagined squatting over a muddy pond and thought…haven’t I left all this behind me?”.
The most resounding point she made was that your “mother tongue” is literally a collection of the words your mother taught you. We speak the way we do because of who we are and where we were born, many of us speak Australian English.
She believes that the worst deprivation people can suffer is to be stripped of the language taught by the mothers of their mother and be incapable of expressing their thoughts and feelings. This communication theft is something that is suffered by Aboriginal people all over Australia, she said, and by abandoning grammar and the written word, this could also happen to us.