video | Order and Progress: a sonic segue across A Auriverde

  • Depictions of indigenous peoples, including their music, customs and languages are often used in multimedia artworks to represent the original inhabitants of a certain area. Globalisation and urbanisation have resulted in many indigenous peoples leaving their traditional lands and losing continuity with their languages. Moreover, countries around the world have attempted to mould individuals belonging to non-dominant groups, specifically minorities and indigenous peoples, by suppressing indigenous language. Waziyatawin Angela Wilson stated in American Indian Quarterly "Nothing reflects Indigenous worldviews and ways of being more than Indigenous languages. Precisely because language reflects the essence of Indigenous identity, it was beaten out of generations of children in boarding, residential, and day schools" (p. 369). Although many people are aware of indigenous peoples in their own country, many are ignorant, apathetic and some even celebrate the extinction of indigenous language and culture. Finally, social stigma can lead to cultural shame, resulting in self hate that manifests itself as a rejection of traditional customs and language. This rejection can result in a self imposed separation from the community, exacerbating the problem of language loss.

    Although there has been research in the use of indigenous languages for rhythmic analysis of phonetics, language is more than just the sound that people make when they communicate or a "flavour" to be used to create some sort of ethnic soundscape. Language encompasses not only verbal communication between people, but includes the cultural understanding and identification or belonging for people. Language requires communication within a community for it to survive. Marie Battiste states "the most significant meanings quickly pass from family to family and to succeeding generations through dialogue, storytelling, and appropriate rituals and legendary archetypes." Many cultures have an understanding of the cosmos, which is often expressed in stories, songs and dances based on astronomical phenomena, which can be used to mark seasons for planting or harvesting crops, when to hunt for a particular type of animal, times to trade, reproductive cycles, migration and religious or cultural practices. Moreover, these cultural practices are often a mechanism by which a culture is able to retain it's cultural identity. For example, the Guarani people of South America---the largest indigenous people group of Brazil and numbering approximately 80 000---developed strategies to retain their identity despite European invasion and conflict since the early sixteenth century, managing "to maintain important cultural traits, such as language, laws, rules, sociological customs, a cosmological system, beliefs, ideologies, and ethnohistory". A point of particular interest to me is that for the Guarani, "the importance of the heavenly bodies in daily life....form the moral norms that regulate society, meaning, and the ethical-religious system".

    Order and Progress: a sonic segue across A Auriverde is a multimedia composition for planetarium, digital signal processor and percussion ensemble. The work primarily focuses upon the Flag of Brazil, which portrays the skyscape that would have been over the capital at the proclamation of the Republic of Brazil. Although the work is constructed in three distinct movements that collectively represent the whole nation of Brazil, Amerindia---the first movement---primarily highlights the important contribution and cultural diversity the indigenous peoples provide the nation through the use of language, music, and cultural astronomy. Moreover, it emphasises that the presence of indigenous peoples need not be considered a threat, but can actually be accommodated within the existing state.

  • Category: Videos
  • Thematic area: Promotion
  • Call topics: Social inclusion and solidarity (e.g. recognition of sign languages)
  • Major objective: Thematic areas: Promotion
  • Area of intervention: Integration of indigenous languages into standard-setting