Moments of Arrival: (Un)translatability of languages and cultures in geopolitics and geopoetics
The remote tropical islands of the Tiwi people in the Arafura sea off the Northern Territory of Australia became written into western texts first in 1824 when Captain Arthur Phillip King chose the location of the Fort Dundas site to initiate ‘ a second Singapore’, a vital trading post. He was then working at the Admiralty in London preparing his journal of exploration and his maps of Australia’s northern coastline for publication.2 Because of the hostility of the Tiwi, Fort Dundas was abandoned in 1829. At another moment Bishop Gsell in 1911 from Belgium established the Mission of the Sacred Heart at Nguiu and introduced the Catholic liturgy to the nomadic Tiwi. I arrived in 1974 as an art adviser to co-ordinate a silk-screen workshop ‘Tiwi Designs’ and kept a daily diary of events and emotions through observing the intersection of seemingly incommensurable cultures. Each of these incursions arrived with different assumptions, and perceived the Tiwi according to that inner image.
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