From an Aboriginal Reserve to Graduation Podium

Renowned elder and champion of the Aboriginal people, Elsie Heiss has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts by the University of Notre Dame, Sydney.
“I felt like a VIP,” Heiss says, recalling last December’s award ceremony, as she diligently sets up her church for the next mass. “It was the ultimate thing for me, for my work over the years.”

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Aboriginal elder Elsie Heiss addressing 2010 graduates

The award was given in recognition of Heiss’s devoted work as a health educator Continue reading

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Fob Watch

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It is six past eleven. At this time Grandfather would have been snoring happily while his favourite watch minds the time inside his coat’s pocket. Grandfather is not here anymore but his watch remains faithful to the family despite being tossed aside on a neglected corner of the closet. Its relentless ticking often scares the little mice away who dare to poke and play with the little lion perched on the chain. Even though the golden chain has turned rusty, the “Made in England” signature on its body boasts of an aristocratic past.

What a glorious past it was! The watch was a fascination for two generations; the young children and grandchildren who marvelled at the small second watch inside the big watch, locking up the second-hand. Now ticking away each of those seconds, the watch bides its time to join the master.

Fresh Pineapple on Board

The box rocks vulnerably every time the boat rides on a cascading wave. It has travelled to hell and back with the asylum seekers from Philippines. Together they have encountered pirates who kicked the box to scare the little children on board. It has also served as a table for scanty meals taken once a day and for spreading out the map, needed to steer the vessel on starry nights.

Once when water was gushing into the hull, it soaked the box so wet that the cardboard was about to fall apart. The inexperienced sailors took a while before they found the leak and siphoned desperately. To save the boat from capsizing, the travellers thought of throwing the box away with other belongings, but spared it somehow at the last minute.

As they cross the Australian border, tension mounts within the passengers and some of them try to stand on the box to get a better view. However, the battered box has reached its threshold and does not support anyone.

Soon the Australian Navy intercepts the boat. A young cadet notices the label on the box and quips about fresh pineapples seeking refuge in the country. The boat people don’t know enough English to get that. They cast it a bland look before leaving for Christmas Island.

The box has served its purpose well and would be fondly remembered by the first generation of these refugees.

A Journey, Crash and Thereafter

Message from the Sole Survivor of a Tandem Crash

Henry, the sombre local postman, is always to be spotted on his bicycle as he goes about his business in a nonchalant fashion day after day. His dark brows cast a deep shadow on his stubbly cheeks that makes him look older than his juvenile twenty-four. One Sunday, as he rides past a hardware store, the postman catches a momentary reflection on the mirror left outside; that of a blond man with Aryan features wearing a starkly contrasting woeful face and a tattered uniform.

Henry puckers his forehead, clearly disgusted by his handsome look that makes it difficult for him to blend into the busy Berlin crowd of 1940’s. Lost in his thought, he suddenly finds himself crashing to the ground as a German convoy zooms past, blaring harsh siren. As he lies on the road, Henry notices the passport that flew out from his pocket. Now lying three meters away on the pavement, its pages flutter revealingly. As the postman attempts to crawl towards it, a passer-by turns around. The stride of a pair of red heels makes Henry break into a cold sweat. Continue reading

Bouchi & Barbie: Toys, Media and Children’s Culture

Kids at Play by OnchitaS

Children playing on a field, barren after the harvest has been cut out.

Bangladeshi children traditionally engaged in free play with toys, many of which are self-invented. Brick particles or shoes were being used either to mark opposing teams’ boundaries, or as valuables-to-be-stolen in the games of Mangsho Chor, Fultokka and Bouchi. Playing Chor-dakat-poolish involved choosing random paper notes which assigned participants’ roles in the games as thieves, robbers, and cops.

Children’s play as such, not only contributes to their social learning but enables them to actively participate in social life. Historian Huizinga suggested that culture is created in the form of play because playing rituals helps societies to shape their worldview and interpret lives. Of all the cultural objects given to children, toys are the most significant because they provide a flexible and engaging tool of socialisation.

Among urbanised Bangladeshi children, free play has become rare due to space constraint and isolated neighborhoods. From the late 21st century, media and toys started being used as convenience goods to keep children entertained. With women’s increasing participation in the workforce, parents became busy and found a caretaker in television.

Many sociologists argue that this rapid rise of media technologies used in homes, is causing the disappearance of childhood by Continue reading