Possible Narrative Structures

A recent meeting with Dr. Gohard-Radenkovic, discussing the topics at hand and the reclamation of a lost first nation’s language brought about the concept of liminality. The no man’s land region to which first nation’s people, for centuries, have been pressed towards can be related to what Dutch - French ethnographer Arnold van Gennep coined back at the turn of the 20th century as liminal. In his book The Rites of Passage (1906), van Gennep takes liminality (from the latin límen, meaning “threshold”) as the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status and have not yet begun the transition (or transformation) to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During the liminal stage participants stand at the “threshold”, between the previous way of structuring their identity, time or community, and the new way which the ritual establishes.

Rites follow a usually prescribed sequence of events, and are usually carried by a master of ceremony. The feeling of liminality is of importance to allow for a transformation to happen. However, when taking this concept towards a broader cultural aspect, such as Victor Turner did later in his written work “Betwix and Between,” one can talk of entire culture groups at the edge of society. And this brings about different connotations to the basis of liminality as a specific place in ritual timing. Because one of the primary characteristics of liminality is that there is a way in as well as a way out. However, a sustained liminal moment becomes a liminal epoch, a term used to describe a society that have endured prolonged wars, or political instability (modernity is sometimes defined as a “permanent liminality”). Thus the concept of liminal situation can also be applied to entire societies that are going through a crisis or a “collapse of order”. A problem here arises, because there are no known set of ritualistic rules that allow for the “way out” or transformation to happen. The future is a complete unknown. Self proclaimed ceremony masters take central position. The danger of emptying the liminal time of real creativity perpetuates the feeling of limbo.

Philosopher Karl Jaspers talks of “axial age”, an in-between period between structured worlds as an age of creativity, in which ‘man asked radical questions, and where the ‘unquestioned grasp on life is loosened’.

Having these elements in mind and revisiting our intention to bring about a first possible narrative structure to work upon during the development stage, we can break-down and group simple terms into 3 categories, below. When individuated our protagonist and main subject mirrors the time of the entire span of the narrative structure. There is a feeling of expansion in time throughout.

1. the preliminary state: the ancient, the first nations knowledge and relationship to nature, the Dreaming, the language in its pure state, identity (and separatio moment of identity towards the liminal state).

2. forced dispersion, liminal society and culture, lost structures, the need to a change in narrative, the players, towards:

the regaining of a structured transition phase through a) known rituals, b) the reclamation of language.

3. Culture transformation, new status or society, identity, individuation / aggregation.

This structure allows for us to concentrate in the way we will be addressing our work and the gathering of material to a specific action of thought, image and creative proposals.

From Dr. Robert Amery’s Warraparna Kaurna!, a section on language ecology proposes a series of questions used in the research and vitality for the reclamation of the Kaurna language (below as Target Language) that we take as a provocation for our work. A selection:

•What indigenous place names survive? What can they tell us about the Target Language?

•How can the Target Language be used as a key for understanding the environment geography and early contact history associated with the territory of the Target Language?

•How can knowledge of the Target Language aid in developing understandings of its associated culture, religion, ceremonial practices and Dreaming?

•How can ancient knowledge be transferred so as to have relevance in the present time?

Knowing that our work concentrates information in the territory of South Australia and Adelaide, close to the experience and life of the Kaurna First Nation’s people, we still look to address the universal.

American mythologist Joseph Campbell, as many other extraordinary minds have done through the 20th century, extensibly researched the universality of rites and the similarity of myth in all of the cultures of our world. There are similarities and key access to the way we relate to our transformative power as humanity everywhere. This allows for our work and relationship to the Kaurna’s reclamation of language, and identity, to open towards the universal. It allows us the feeling that any reclamation of the self today is an example of our humanity, a conquest for the perpetuity of transformation and endurance.




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