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Bunjilaka Melbourne Museum: Bush Mechanics — Ngapa Car 1972 Ford ZF Fairlane

Second whip from Melbourne Museum Bunjilaka Bush Mechanics exhibition. I am very in love with this hoonage.

This 1972 Ford ZF Fairlane was painted with a ngapa Jukurrpa (water creation story) design by Thomas Jangala Rice.

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Bunjilaka Melbourne Museum: Bush Mechanics — Claymation

More from Melbourne Museum Bunjilaka Bush Mechanics exhibition. Which was smaller than I expected. I was hoping for acres of hoonage, but these are working cars for people who need to travel the outback without a local parts shop to buy slammed and stance at.

In 2015 Pintubi Amatjere Warlpiri Media produced a claymation based on the earlier Bush Mechanics. Some of the original cast members have died, so the live action episodes cannot be viewed by many, as representations of the dead and even the use of their names are forbidden in their home communities. This practice is common in many Aboriginal cultures. The award-winning claymation allowed Bush Mechanics to return to Yuendumu.

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Bunjilaka Melbourne Museum: Bush Mechanics — 1962/3 Holden EJ Special Station Sedan

Museuming! Hectic run across town trying to remember public transport and speed-walking up to Carlton Gardens, past the Exhibition Building and into Melbourne Museum Bunjilaka for HOONAGE! Fucked if I’m leaving Naarm without witnessing sick wrenching of Bush Mechanics. This is Motorcar Ngutju, salvaged by the Bush Mechanics from the Police compound in Yuendumu and driven to Willowra in the first episode of the series. See man driving a Outback Whip.

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Waldsieversdorf

Märkische Schweiz really is Brandenburg’s Switzerland! Lucy from Transfiction (who share part of Alte Kantine Wedding) told me she has a small Datscha/bach/bungalow in Waldsieversdorf, about 50km east of Berlin. Me needing some stare-at-trees time decided to sod off there on Tuesday. No internet! Barely any mobile coverage! A small A-frame hut near the Buckow-Müncheberg railway line, backed by 25 metre trees and and a small hill away from Großer Däbersee.

I had no real plans except to read, go cycling in the forest, go hiking, eat a lot, maybe write a bit. I finished two books, got half-way through a third, wrote one (short) application, ate a lot of local cheese, spent equal parts riding bike and carrying it. I’d secretly thought the ‘Schweiz’ of Märkische and Sächsische was a slight conceit, after all Switzerland is like ‘MMM’ and this part of Germany is like ‘___’. Turns out Glaciers! Ice Age! Bits of Norway and Sweden! 2000 meters thick of ice can make some rather massive geography. It’s still very sandy though, despite all the granite and sandstone shoved down from the far north. So, I improved rapidly in biking on sand. And in going up and down hills. They might not be high—the elevation goes between around 25m and 100m with some bits higher and further up the Stöbber a mere 6m above sea level (yes, hundreds of kilometres from the ocean; it’s that flat)—but the hills do manage to go up and down with some frequency and steepness (and combinations of mud and sand).

Which meant that my daily rides were shorter in distance, longer in time and much harder—especially the afternoon I decided for a gentle roll around Schemützelsee, got slightly lost, meandered twice to the 168 road, then got slammed on Panoramaweg which repeatedly goes from the lake to hills some 50 metres higher, then back down, via gullies so steep they had stairs on both sides. It was most unexpected and I suffered. My bike however was royally carried the distance on my shoulder.

Next day I tried for the flatness of following the Stöbber. More hills! Utterly beautiful wetlands and lakes! Most days I ended up in Buckow around dusk, sometimes having a coffee at the Bioladen on the market square. Buckow itself is all late-19th century grand architecture and quite a few old villas falling into disrepair. The whole region (well, all that I visited) seemed very calm and friendly—none of the weird crypto-naziism I’ve heard about elsewhere. It’s really one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, and definitely a gem so close as it is to Berlin.

Around all my bike and forest adventures, I lay on the sofa eating cheese and bread, drinking ginger tea, coffee (some chocolate also), reading, watching the birds outside (and sometime in when they decided open door meant “Please fly in!”), the hornets, mice, insects, migrating geese, more trees, the wood fire which kept me warm in the evenings. Somehow I ended up reading quite a bit of Chinese Daoist and Japanese Zen philosophy, and with the unintended luxury of not speaking to anyone for four days (except in the shop), managed some thinking also.

I forgot my camera battery charger, and my battery was completely empty. Still, I managed to take about the equivalent of a roll of film. Yes, shall go that way again, and more hiking and sleeping in my tent too.

Reading: Gail Hershatter — The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past

This is the book I was so intimidated by I went off and read Charles Stross and Harry Potter for a couple of weeks. I heard of Gail Hershatter in 2008 (if I was paying attention), but it was an interview in The China Beat that made me put this book at the top of my next-to-buy reading list.

It’s been sitting there for quite a few weeks, now, as it reminded me of Susan Mann’s The Talented Women of the Zhang Family, which I’d never finished, so began once again and was utterly taken. So for the next two weeks in Brussels I needed something I wouldn’t finish in a night (Harry Potter) requiring me to buy something new.

The cover of The Gender of Memory is a thing of beauty in itself, and then to open it … 488 pages set in a very small typeface, of which perhaps a fifth are notes, appendices, bibliography.

I’ve begun reading it perhaps three times now, only getting to the second page before being distracted for a day or two, necessitating a restart. Not to say it’s turgid, on the contrary, it’s so dense and fascinating I’d rather go back and make sure I recall some details than adopt she blasé reading habit.

As for why I am reading this, I have decided to make a specific shift in my China, Asia and Central Asian reading, to concentrate as much as possible on the often missing 50% of the human population: women. I notice this especially when reading on Afghanistan, which has been one of the regions I’ve concentrated on the last ten years or so, where voices of women in the historical narrative, in the contemporary political and cultural situation, in both academic and more generalist texts are substantially, if not wholly absent.

Much the same can be said for all of Central Asian and Chinese scholarship, as well as much contemporary european writing. Or perhaps another way to phrase it is, that if a writer neglects to consciously include the situation of and for women in a particular context, under the supposition that his writing by default is inclusive, he is sorely mistaken and has managed to exclude half the population whose experiences do not necessarily accord to the default, male narrative. Additionally, one chapter devoted to the subject of women out of a whole book does not make things right.

So this book, along with Susan Mann’s form part of  a new direction in reading for me on my favourite subjects. Which is not to say I’ll only be reading a book if it meets these unfortunately stringent criteria. There are several Southern China works sneaking up on me which are unlikely to entirely or even partly satisfy this. Nonetheless, Gail Hershatter’s work from the few pages I’ve read so far is likely to be among the best reads I have this year.

Gail Hershatter — The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China's Collective Past
Gail Hershatter — The Gender of Memory

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beautiful and mysterious luoping

The vast monsoon-saturated billboard, the only unbleached colour in two days of hard-sleeper train from Kunming to Guangzhou said, “Welcome to beautiful and Mysterious Luoping”. Behind, and congealing the heavy mist of two endless raining weeks were a wreckage of factories, a contortion of rusted, oxidised or oil-slicked intestinal metals, sky-gouging brick chimneys, cumulus billowings and ventings of steam, sharp hot-orange volcanic flares burning off gaseous leftovers, and orchre gashes in the enclosing hills where the town ate its land.

Luoping is cradled in the limestone strata of the Yunnan-Guangxi-Guizhou that becomes at its western isthmus the vertiginous accordion folds of Yulong Xueshan, and far east in Guangdong slips quietly into spindly towers amidst rice fields; this contiguous geology also supports recognisably similar aqriculture in the terraced fields, rice paddies, and water buffalo. As an eruption of smallpox pustules, towns like Luoping are avaricious plunderers, divesting the land under their influence in a single swipe before remaining only to rot; the antithesis of cycles of farming dating back millennia.

From Lijiang in the east each night, the sky pulsed ever-nearer with the impending monsoon. Returning from Daju was a special, irregular event as the entire town tended to the fields before the rains arrived. In Guangdong it had been raining for most of a month, and Fujian was partly flooded. By the time I arrived in Kunming, so too had the wet season. From there through to Guangzhou the land was under a desaturating mist, the fields shining with fresh rain, the horizon obliterated, and not uncommonly rivers overrunning their flood plains.