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Insightsto indigenousmedia
andcollaborative video work
By Martha-Cecilia Dietrich

Indigenous rnedir asa phenOmellOfl carrnot rcducecl a r!'action western hegemol-ty anclcoloto to bc nial legacies, is oftcn rootedin thc ctrtrtext lesistance, but of cmpowcrment, sclf-dete rmirration and thc recl.riming of symboliccprcscnta r tiolr.Thcrefore n ould like to feflect on cliffelent I cascs inLligcnous of fihr ano parrrcipatory vidco n'ork in an.rtten'rpt highlighttl.rc to mrrltiplcd1'narrics that ariseeluekr tht'desideratum se.lfof representation to finally locateus as anthropologists that contcxt. and in


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we are to understandthe presentaccordingto Eric Wolf (1997), have to explorethe past in an attemptto.onwe a vision of the world as a totality of intercomected

produceschange, but always in negotiationwith the cultural understandingsthat suround it. In this respect,I agreewith Turner who - in his argument with JamesFarris- statesthat indigenous media is about representingitself in its own cultural categories,unlike Farris, who sees the introduction of western media technologiesas a destructive ,,Western project" (Turner 1992:11).

processes determinehow we understand,,our" past and that prsent. that sense In media is not to be understoodas a static element socialreproduction,but as an activeelementwithoI in thedynamicsthat determineculture: asserting, conserving

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andquestioningthe paradigms of seeing and understanding.Visualrepresentations thereforeproducts oI different The example of the Kayapo ,,Video in the Villages" project are ideas, needsand understandingsof their function and use. and the manner it has been academicallydiscussed(Turner WhatGinsburg called ,,mediating culture" (1995)refers to thepurpose conveyingmeaningbetweenand within social of groupq whether they are defined by culture, generation, gende{, This can be met in all forms of indigenous media as etc. 1992,Ginsburg 2002,Ruby 1991etc.) indicates the political as well as the social importance of the production of visual representation within and outside the Kayapo community againsta backgroundof political struggle for territory. Video


the following examples will attempt to show Such exam-

gained a function in which the processof documentationbeples often understood aspart of a movementof resistance camea political actin itself.The creationofan objectifiedrealare against what is called the ,,westernworld", responsiblefor ity - what video was capableof, was determinedby their own massive political, geographic and economic disruptions of indigenous and culture. The anthropologistwho tries to life createa universal truth about ,,others" is definitely part of thisworld. The crisis of rcpresentation and the rethinking of anthropological theoriesand methodshave clearly disrupted these logics,but the imagescreatedstill remain. Thereis obviously no clear answer to the question whether meansand interestsor as Turner puts it ,,saythat video has contributed to a transformationof Kayapo social consciousness,both in the senseof promoting a more objectified notion of social reality and of heightening their senseof their own agencyby providing them with a meansof activecontrol over the processof obiectificationitself: the video camera." (Turner1992: Despitethe political implications,video hap8). pened to serve numerous other culturally and socially de-

r Film

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,,westem"media technology is the agent of cultural death termined functions, too. The number of videos the Kayapo or survival,but what can be said is that identity is a process made of their ceremonies, rituals and dancescart be underwhich is never complete (Hall 1.997)and constantly being stood as the documentationof cultural expressions, conserv(Ginsburg 1989:11).Most re-negotiated. Therefore media might be an element that ing culture for future generations

of the films are barely editcd, maybe because they just make senseas a whole, by its chronologicalorder and repetitive prccesscs. Other videos were rneant to be informative and servesocial well aseducatjonal as ends(Cinsburg 2002b). Theexan.rples (1986)who drawn by EricMichaels wasactively involved in creating an aboriginal broadcastingchannel in collaboration with the Australian lnstitute of Aboriginal Studies,highlight anotherfunction of visual reprcsentation in

is not about translating,but rather a try to understand the self/other relation through a conscious involvement and collaboratiorywhich may prove Rouch'sforesight of a ,,shared (1974: anthropology" 43-44). Mag".Mattha-Cecilia Dietrich stutliedLatin Am.rican StLtdics(LAL2006) zoell Social as ns and Cultural Atlthropllogllat the (2008). is currentlL/ Unii,crsitV Vicnna of Slt dotg MA itl Visal 0 Altthtopologv tllc Grat0da Cantrc.fot Visuol Anthropologyl 0t

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a processof political empowerment and self-determination. Manchestar Unittcrsitt/. Her tnaitt rcseatch itercstsurrou d fhc Next to the aspectof resistance against the cultural appro- arcas Visual of Ahtl opology, MccliaAntltropologrl well asAnas priation of the West,the Warlpiri people startedto creatively produce their orvn TV series,news, soap-operas, definetc. ing not only their or,vnimage,but also their understandings of visual aesthetics. contrastTracvMoffatt, who is considIn ered an aboriginalartist and filmmaker,doesn'tintend to create a visual representation a collective.Influencedby her of aboriginalbackgroundshe feelsa responsibilityto touch poIitically contL'stcd topics of aboriginal reality (Moffatt 2008, URL1). Her videos and photographs can be understood as visual represcntations, that, different to the Kayapos work, address fears, social incqualities and broken identities of Australian Aborigines in relation to the national society(see filmographl,) in a more personalwa;'. Another example,again showing a different form of indigenous appropriation of mcdia technologies the film Atanaris juat, the fast runner It is based on an lnuit legend and was rvritten, produced, directed,and acted by Inuit people, who were partly trained in film elsewhere, cameback to work but as filmmakers,,at home". Thev themselves their efforts see as:,,(... part of this continuous stream oralhistorycarried of ) forward into the new millennium through a marriageof Inuit storytelling skills and new technology" (URL2). Thcse examplesaltd many others embedded in a varietv of contexts,show the multiplicitv of approaches indigenous to and non-indigenous concerns within video-makin&documentaryand fictionfilm genres. Thevurge us to see,,film as production of knowlIa] cultural product and socialprocess; edge and cvocation of intense emotion; activist intent and aestheticinnovation; and new technologies connectingwith old traditions" (Elder2002:148).What cananthropologycontribute? lt often seemsthat anthropologicalefforts to make the voicesofthe indigenousheard arestillconcernedwith the translation of culture for ,,western" audiences.(Asad cited in Flores2004:33) However, I hold that ethnography in post modern terms should be as (self-)reflexive as polyphonic. lt thropologv thc Scrrses. also of She t'orns parf of the Modtg AnthtopologySocial Natu'ork(Altshia) iLltich ispires to cotlnecl athtopol ogistsa,rl prototc anthropologicallyforned projccts i i a Astrin qsuell asitrternatiotul conrcxr. ( sce wioio. stt-n no u Srrrlol



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Eldea Sarah (1995):Colhtrorative Filnrmaking:An open spacc for mking mcaning,a mor.l ground tbr ethnoBraphic film. In: Visual Anthropoto$. Re v i e w V o l . l 1N o . 2 . . 9 4 { 0 . S Flores,Carlos (2004):Indigenousvideo, developmcnrind shar.d anihropolog\1 A collaboratiYe !xpe.ienc('with M.)a Q'eqchi' filmmakers in post $,ar Guatenala.h: VisualAnthrcpolog),Re!ie, Vol.20,Issue1, S.31,.14. Cinsburg, Fave, (1995)rMcdiating Culturc: indigcnolrs mcdia, eihnograph, ic film, and the production of identitrl In: Devereaux, Leslic/Hillman, Roger (ects.): ofVision. US, Universjty ofCalit,rrnia Prcss. S.2s6-291 Cinsburg, F:rye(2000): Black Screens and cultural cirizenship.In: Vlsual Anthropologl Revier{ Vol.21, Issues and 2. S. it0,97. 1 GinsburS, raye/Abu'l-ughod, Lila/ I-arkin,Brian (2002(.)): Medi.1 Worlds,An thropok)gyon new tcrrain.USA, Universitv of Calilornia Press. CirrsbrgFaye(2002(b):Mcdiiting Culturc, Indigenlous mcdia, erhnographic 6lm and thc produclion ol identitl. In: Ashkew K./Wilk, R.: The Anthropotogv of M.dia. A Reder. Blacka,ellPublication. S.210236. Ha]1,Siuart (1997):Representalion: Cultural Reprcsenhrions ancl Signifving Pncticcs.London,Sage. Mi.haels,Eric (r9iJ6 The Aboriginal Inlention ol Television CenrralAustra): r Iia, 1982'1986. Ca'rberrn, Australianlnstitute ol Aboriginal Srudies. Rouch,Jean(197,r): Thc Camer. and Man. Studiesin tho Anthropolog),of Visual Comm!nication, ( I ): 37-.I.r. Rub\r Jay (1991): Speakin8o1,Speakingabout, Spe.ikingAlongside An An, thropologicalDilemmn.In: Visrrl Anthfopologv RevieltrVol.7,No.2.S. 50 67 Turncr Terry (1992): Dehant irnnSes: Thc Kay.rpoAppropriarion of Video. In: A n l h r o p o l o g T o d a l V o l . 8 ,N o . 6 .S . 5 - 1 6 Y Turner Terr\'(2002): Rcpresdntation,l)olitics, Cultur.rl Imigination. ln: In and digcnousVidco.Cencfal points nnd Kayapoexamples. Faye D. Cinsburg/ IIr: Lila Abu-Lughod/BriaD Larkin (eds.)r Media WorldsrAnthropology on Ncw Terfin.8erlell1Universitv oi CaliforniaPress. S.75-89. Woli, Eric (1997):Eurupe and the people without historv. Iraperback.USA, Universif of CaliforniaPress. URI-r: URI-2: http: / / s 169759 / hitp: / / wwwatinaiuat.corn /

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Atanarjunt,thc FastRunner Zacharias Kunuk 2000,161' Koko from thc Katapo video Project, Mokuka 1990 \"i(e coiouredgirls Trace) 1982 18' Night crics:A Rural TraSedy TrceyMoffatt 1990 17' MoodeitjYorgas(StrongWomen) TfaceyMoffart 1990 21'

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