Language in No Sugar

Topics: Indigenous Australians, Colonialism, Indigenous peoples Pages: 5 (1729 words) Published: July 27, 2013
Jack Davis is an Australian aboriginal and he is therefore well suited to comment on the era of exploitation of his people in the 1930s. In his docu-drama no sugar Davis explores three main ideological standpoints that were prevalent amongst the British colonialists in that period, and their effect on the aboriginal people and culture. Through the masterful shaping of language and form, Davis explores the colonialist ideology of white supremacy and the complete disrespect and disregard for the aboriginal culture and people that come along with it. He goes further to interrogate the ideology of segregation between white men and aboriginals as well as the government’s aim to dilute the aboriginal culture which proved rather successful. Davis laments the loss of aboriginal culture and is simultaneously criticising colonialism and the white concept of protectionalism that majorly influenced government policy at the time. The main theme that presents itself throughout the play is that of the all-conquering nature of colonialism. Davis suggests that colonists, in this case the British, have such a sense of superiority that the culture of the indigenous people is irrelevant to them. Not only this, but they see it as inferior to their own culture and put government legislation in place to ensure the death of the indigenous culture. This theme expresses itself in the play through a number of different utilisations of language. Firstly, although the aboriginal characters predominantly speak English, they inject into their speech many words spoken in Noongar – the language spoken by their particular aboriginal tribe. This clear representation of knowledge of both the aboriginal and the British culture is not mimicked by the other party. Nowhere in the play does a white man say or even show he understands a single word spoken in Noongar. For those of us reading the play, Davis includes a glossary of all the Noongar terms so that we might be enabled to understand them. For a white audience viewing the play (the way a play is supposed to be conveyed) the use of Noongar terms will at many times frustrate them as they are profoundly confused with regard to their meaning. Davis shapes language in this way to show that the British colonialists do not care enough about the aboriginal culture to learn their language because for them, English is all that is needed. Davis argues that the lack of aboriginal language stems from an inherent feeling prevalent in white society in the 1930s that the British culture is superior so learning the aboriginal one is simply a waste of time, both for the authorities and the simple white audience. Another recurring theme that serves to prove this point and confirm the notion of supremacy is the deployment of songs throughout the course of the play. Many aboriginals, in particular Jimmy, display their knowledge of traditional aboriginal songs as well as modern western songs. On the other hand, the white men only know of the western songs and when an aboriginal song is sung, they treat it as if it has no intelligent meaning. This theme of music goes further than demonstrating the aforementioned point; indeed it takes the concept one step further. Davis argues through the songs, a form of language, that not only are the white authorities uninterested in aboriginal culture, they make a concerted effort to impose the western culture on top of it, effectively killing the aboriginal culture in the process. The song that the aboriginals are made to sing for Moore River’s Australia day celebrations is a Christian hymn that speaks of the most important “land,” making reference to the firmament. This is a severe insult to the aboriginal culture, as their religion is intrinsically connected to the physical land of Australia. The effort to replace the holy land of the aboriginal religion with the holy land of Christianity demonstrates the attempt to impose upon them a new religion and culture, with complete disregard to...
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