Too Many Didgeridoos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

An award winning Aboriginal1 cruise on Sydney harbour utilises several actors dancing almost robotically for the tourist watching another blackfella in a red nappy with the mandatory white handprints on the torso playing a hollowed log alien to the traditional Aboriginal culture of the Sydney basin. This scenario portrays images and music over-commercialised by the tourism industry and short sighted Aboriginal performers alike. Many do not understand or have been instructed in the complex knowledge surrounding the Didgeridoo yet it has become a standard backdrop to most Aboriginal performances in Hobart, Adelaide, Melbourne or Perth. As an example, in Sydney, traditional culture does not include this instrument; rather a chorus of possum skin drums and wooden percussion accompaniments are the traditional musical instruments of that geography. Not a termite hollowed out stick! The ‘Didgeridoo’ in Sydney is an example of an Aboriginal invented-hybrid culture, no doubt like the widespread adaptation of the American First Nations people’s peace pipe, head feathers and dream catchers. For these too have been trivialised and sold in flea markets losing their cultural significance. The justification however to this ethical problem in Australia is that Aboriginal Tourism has been portrayed by several governments as the economic alternative to welfare and indeed is seen by some as a means to make a quick dollar without respect for cultural heritage as the operators (black and white) invent stories, dances or songs or just pure ignorance by the performer who thinks they know what the tourist is looking for.
This paper looks at the shortcomings in cultural heritage that deviates from the Australian Bureau of Statistics definition that seems to stereotype what is the Aboriginal ‘experience’, supported by a recent small qualitative case study of twenty international visitors together with a supporting literature review from the Indigenous Australian author’s standpoint.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-71
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Australian Indigenous Issues
Volume17
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014

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