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No Sugar Essay:
Throughout Australian history a racist attitude towards Aboriginals has been a significant issue. The instant the early settlers arrived on our shores and colonised, the Aboriginals have been fighting for the survival of their culture. The Aboriginals haven been take in and dominated to bring them in line with an idealistic European society. These themes have been put forward by Jack Davis in his stage play, No Sugar, the story of an Aboriginal family’s fight for survival during the Great Depression years.
In communicating the racist and unfriendly attitudes of the leading white ideology towards, for example, discrimination and adjustment, Davis constructs characters, which are continuously under fire and in opposition to the oppressing dominant white society. Admittedly Davis utilises his characters to confront the audience and take them out of their comfort zone, showing them the reality of Aboriginal treatment.
Throughout the Great Depression discrimination and racism were both major issues relating to Aboriginals. Jimmy Munday, one of the more outspoken characters in No Sugar is characterised as the activist and lone Aboriginal voice that is constantly challenging dominant white principles. Jimmy is a character shown to constantly rebel against the prejudiced attitude towards Aboriginals. When the officials plan to relocate the Government Well Aboriginals, it reveals the racism in white authority, as the town wants to be devoid of all things Aboriginal, for the sole purpose of a politician winning an election. Realising he is relatively powerless against the oppressing white society Jimmy continues to treat the white authority with hatred, voicing the discrimination he feels: “You reckon blackfellas are bloody mugs. Whole town knows why we’re goin. ‘Coz Wetjalas in this town don’t want us’ ere, don’t want our kids at the school, with their kids, and old Jimmy Mitchell’s tight’ coz they reckon Bert ‘Awke’s gonna give him a hidin’ in the election.”
This illustrates the hatred towards Aboriginals throughout white society, through Jimmy actively resisting major white ideas from his position.
It also shows the strong prejudiced and racist attitude towards Aboriginals.
Adjustment was seen as a major historical practice to attempt to destroy the Aboriginal culture. Aboriginals in No Sugar are able to challenge dominant white beliefs, but ultimately they do not succeed. This concept can be distinctly seen in Gran Munday.
Through Gran’s use of her own language (Nyoongah) Davis is able to spotlight the cultural characteristics of Aboriginal people by expressing her demands to be heard. She disrupts white authority by not adopting the dominant Western Cultural ways. This is clearly demonstrated when Gran speaks in her language: “I’m warrah, guny tjeinu minditj, and I get no gnummari”
The above quote shows that the dominant white society has been unable to destroy her aboriginality. This is due to her aggressively resisting white dominant value systems and using her own language as a symbol of her cultural characteristics. Gran throughout the text is portrayed as possessing traditional Aboriginal qualities, such as her skilled knowledge of bush alternatives. When Neville whips Mary, Gran comes to the rescue:
“No ‘mine, No ‘mine put this jeerung nreear on your back, fix you up quick and make you better.” This furthermore presents Gran as a traditional Aboriginal with her culture strongly intact. Her knowledge of native medical herbs and traditional midwifery skills, she continues to use the white society for what she wants, and only utilises the bare essentials of the Western Culture that she needs to survive. This can be seen as resisting the help of the dominant white society and therefore challenging assimilation in not using Western Culture medicine. This is reinforced when Matron offers Gran baby powder: “Don’t need powder, use me own!”
Davis has constructed Gran as the independent culturally unbroken Aboriginal in order to influence the audience on the issue of adaptation. Through her actively resisting assimilation the audience is influenced to see that the aboriginality and all its cultural elements are rapidly being disintegrated through the domination of the white society and this influences the audience to feel compassion towards Aboriginals in their ongoing fight for survival in the cultural prison they are in.
Through the construction of such characters as Jimmy and Gran the audience is influenced to see the horrific efforts of the dominant white
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No Sugar, Racism, Aboriginal Australians
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