Reel Indigeneity: ten Canoes and its chronotopical politics of Ab/Originality

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Renes, CM 2014, 'Ten canoes and reel indigenous Australians: the chronotopical politics of ab/originality in film-making', Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies, vol. 28, no. 6, pp. 850-861.

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The awarded film Ten Canoes (2006) broke new ground in the cinematic representation of Indigenous Australia. Indigenous life in the remote area of Arnhem Land’s Arafura Swamp was both documented and fictionalized in collaboration between the independent Dutch-Australian filmmaker Rolf de Heer and the Yolngu community in Ramingining. This essay draws on Homi Bhabha’s work on the articulation of cultural difference in his essay ‘DissemiNation’, published in his volume Nation and Narration (1990), Martin Nakata’s work on the Indigenous/non-Indigenous contact zone in the Australian context (2007), and the film’s accompanying documentary, The Making of Ten Canoes, to analyse the eventful process of Ten Canoes’ creation. The questions and doubts raised about the film’s structure and content inside and outside the Aboriginal community reveal a dynamic yet tense ‘Cultural Interface’ of crosscultural collaboration. Its very nature issues a call to veer away from a nostalgic search for Indigenous-Australian ‘authenticity’, ‘fidelity’ and ‘originality’ when IndigenousAustralian cultural dynamics inevitably move towards the incorporation of new, hybrid means of cultural production, as Ten Canoes’ fruitful spin-off activities amongst the Yolngu prove.

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