Tag Archive: Aboriginal


IMG_5316Site 1: Treaty

In February 2016, 500 Victorian Aboriginal leaders voted to reject constitutional recognition. Instead the group requested that the State Government “resource a treaty process including a framework…  (and) complete collaboration with all Sovereign Peoples and Nations”. In July, a Working Group began talks to work out Australia’s first Treaty with Aboriginal people. It hopes to cover recognition of past injustices; authority held by the 39 First Nation clans in the region; respect for the land, customs and traditions of the First Peoples; land rights and land acquisition funding and fresh water and sea rights.

Progress is being made, yet nationally Arrernte woman Celeste Liddle maintains “We don’t have land rights; we have not received proper reparations for the Stolen Generations nor stolen wages; our sovereignty is yet to be respected and the damage of the false doctrine of terra nullius is yet to be undone”.

Sour wine to dull the pain.

They thirst for justice.

Indigenous Hospitality House IHH Healing Rites walk 2017 teaRite 1: tasting cold tea

We drink this bitter tea today
To taste the bitterness of unkept promises
We drink this bitter tea today
To remember the thirst of Christ on the cross
We drink this bitter tea today and ask
How can we truly recognise our hosts on this stolen land?

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Site 2: the food places

We come to the food places all over the land.  For a long time, Settler peoples have note understood the sophisticated practices of food cultivation of the First Peoples of the land.

Unlike a passive hunter gatherer lifestyle, Aboriginal people across the country sowed, grew, irrigated, preserved and built storehouses. For at least 6600 years at Budj Bim, the Gunditjmara people deliberately manipulated local water flows to engineer a landscape that increased the availability of eels.  Kulin nation people sustainably managed and harvested fields of murnong root.  Others fermented banksia nectar, milled grain and baked bread.

Now there is pre-packaged food imported from far away, polluted with chemicals.  Knowledge of traditional food cultivation has been restricted or devalued or lost. In hospitals people are treated for diabetes, kidney disease, obesity and heart failure, the results of a Western convenience diet. And the advertising say, “Take and eat, this is given for you.”

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Rite 2: plastic bread, sugar water

We eat this bread
To remember the loss of Indigenous agriculture
We drink this soft drink
To taste the loss of living water
We eat this cheap bread
To consider the true cost of our food
We drink this sugar drink
To taste the lure of thinking we know better
We eat and drink a warning, and we ask:
Do we seek a table of nourishment, the bread and water of life?

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Site 3: The Warrigal Creek Massacre

Angus McMillan – the “Founding father or “the Butcher” of Gippsland. He fle Scotland during the Highland Clearances but went on to enact brutal clearances of his own upon his new country. At the time of the European invasion of Gippsland, about 3000 Aboriginal people lived in the area. By 1860, it was less than 250.

The worst massacre was at the Warrigal Creek in 1843, where 80 to 200 members of the Bratowooloong clan were killed by McMillan and the Highland Brigade in revenge for the murder of a single white settler. The Brigade found the clan members camped around the waterhole at Warrigal Creek. They surrounded them and fired into them.  Some escaped into the scrub. Others jumped into the waterole and were shot “until the water was red with blood”. One boy, about 12 years old, was hit in the eye, captured and made to lead the brigade from one camp to another. The piles of bones were hidden in a place known as the valley of the dead.

There is a campaign underway to rename the McMillan electorate in Victoria. Liberal MP Russell Broadbent said, “It would send a message that wwe actually care about these issues and, if we are not responsible to our past… we can’t get on with our future.”

When Kurna man Russell Mullett visits an Aboriginal massacre site, he listens for the birds. “If I get out of the car and the birds are singing, I know it’s alright,” he said.

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Rite 3: black armband

We wear this black armband
Because of grief and shame and horror
We wear this black armband
Because we grieve the killings of the First Peoples
We are ashamed of the violence that still exists today
And the complicity of those who bury the truth
We grieve our failure to give back the land
We cry out with those who defended their country
We wear this black armband and ask:
How will we deal with out unfinished business?

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Site 4: young people in detention

97% of children in juvenile detention centres in the Northern Territory are Indigenous.  Of these, about 60% are in out of home care.

Children are removed when there parents are judged unfit to care for them.  However, in 2016, a program on the abuse of Aboriginal children at the Don Dale juvenile detention facility showed what can happen when the State takes on the role of parent.  Previous investigations had already uncovered incidents of children being tear-gassed while playing cards, having fabric hoods placed over their heads and being deprived of drinking water for 72 hours while in solitary confinement.

The most disadvantaged and troubled young people who offend are pout into the custody of a system with the most confrontational and violent culture.  The default response seems to be to exclude the, from society and from visibility – a response that runs right through Australia’s history.

Rite 4: hand prints – stop!

We say stop! Wait. Listen.
Listen to the voices of violence and despair behind bars
We wait in silence.

[a period of silence]

We leave our handprints here
When we have heard , give us courage to speak up.

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Site 5: Change the date

26th January 1788 marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet to our shores. ANTaR warns that “…celebrating Australia Day on that date is akin to asking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to celebrate their own invasion and dispossession”.

This year Fremantle Council celebrated its “One Day” on January 28th. Nyunggai Warren Mudine has suggested January 1st is a “proper day to celebrate Australia’s independence, identity and nationhood” stating that “it’s a day everyone can unite behind”. Tens of thousands of people attended the Invasion Day rally in Melbourne this year. The Australian people are increasingly recognising the implications of the current date and acknowledging it as inappropriate.

However, Arrernte woman Celeste Liddle asserts that “Merely changing the date will only end up erasing and nullifying the very reasons Indigenous people take to the streets to protest Invasion Day”.

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Rite 5: laying down leaves

We lay down these leaves today
To acknowledge our own need to remember
We lay down these leaves
To show respect for all who are no longer here
We lay down these leaves
To honour those who challenge a false celebration
We lay down these leaves
For those daring to start telling a true story

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Site 6: Wangan and Jagalingou native title

The Wangan and Jagalingou people are the Traditional Owners of the land in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.  They are fighting mining company Adani and the Queensland government to prevent the massive Carmichael coal mine from being built on their land.

They explain: ‘In our country, spiritual ancestors come from up under the ground and travel in and through the land at sacred sites associated with the Rainbow Serpent known as the Mundunjudra.  The Rainbow Serpent has power to control the sites where our people are born into their bigan (Totem). This has been so since the beginning of the creation period.

The sacred beliefs of our culture, our religion, is based on where the song lines run through our country.  These song lines connect us to Mother Earth. Trees, plants, shrubs, medicines, waterholes, animals, habitats, aquifers – all these have a special religious place in our land and culture.  Our spirits and the spirits of our ancestors travel above, through, and under the ground of our country.

If the Carmichael mine were to proceed it would tear the heart out of the land.  These effects are irreversible. Our land will be “disappeared”.

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Rite 6: blindfolds

We wear these blindfolds today
To recognise our blindness to the sacred spirit of the land
We wear these blindfolds today
To recognise our blindness to the workings of power and greed
We wear these blindfolds today
To recognise our blindness to those seeking to protect the land and its people

[blindfolds are tied on for a period of silence]

We take off these blindfolds today
To show that we are willing to be shown the way
We tie these black and white strips together
To recognise our need to be connected with the land and each other

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Site 7: ‘Cultural’ violence?

In August 2016, a cartoon was published in the Australian newspaper, depicting a drunk Aboriginal father who didn’t know his child’s name. The cartoonist said he was trying to focus public attention on the plight of the child.  Dameyon Bonson, the founder of Black Rainbow, an advocacy group for LGBTQI Indigenous youth, said that when he saw the cartoon, he felt ‘gut punched’.  ‘This was in the national broadsheet, and published on national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day.’

In response, the Aboriginal community mounted an online campaign showing positive images and stories of Indigenous Dads.

Luke Pearson wrote, ‘Every denial of Indigenous peoples’ rights, fro invasion to massacres to Stolen Generations to the NT Intervention, has been accompanied by imagery and rhetoric that has made us out to be a threat.  A threat to white people, a threat to ourselves and each other, a threat to our own children; for this to dominate public imagination the public also needs to buy the underpinning idea that we are fundamentally flawed, that our very humanity us both in question and at stake, and that we need to be protected from ourselves,’

We are all responsible for a culture shift.

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Rite 7: creating a home fire

We build up this fire
Warm like a family of care
We build up this fire
Like we work to build up strong families
We build up this fire
To remember Jesus who gathered unlikely people into families
We build up this fire
To remember Jesus who called us to care for each other as the children of God
And we ask:
How can we create places where all can find warmth, welcome and home?

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Closure

Creator Spirit
Help us to uncover our hidden stories
Suffering God
Help our tears to flow for the pain
Reconciling Spirit
Heal our shame and our wounds, and call us into action

We are searching in the darkness
for the first signs of new life.

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ELAINE BROWN

There is no such thing as a part-time revolution.

We’re not here for black liberation but for all liberation.

We didn’t come here for a better life,
or religious freedom [like migrants to US],
we came kicking and screaming.

We provided the conditions for people to bring about the revolution –
gave them free education, a free breakfast, access to a free clinic…
they have the human right to food, to health care –
we gave them the experience of something worth fighting for.

Are we breaking the glass ceiling to be oppressors ourselves?!
No. We have a common enemy.
Can’t see ourselves in competition with anyone else.
What is our agenda as women?
To find solidarity with the others who are suppressed.

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PAOLA BALLA

Learn how to situate yourself.

Do not let your feminism drive your racism.

Mind and heart, mine is a matriarchal tradition – 
you experience yourself as a part of others.

Activism is radical self-care.
It is a form of activism to thrive, not just survive.
Art is not living but living can be art.

“The world will crumble one day.
It’s ok. We know how to be poor.
We know how to live without electricity…”
– Rosie Egan

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NAYUKA GORRIE

(of WOW/speakers)
To see your reality reflected back you.
Very powerful.

How much of my gender came out of a book? A ship?
The convent that beat my grandmother?
We need to consider: how is gender colonised?

Your black body is never quite yours in this country.
Hyper-sexualised vs. not attractive at all. Strong vs. not strong at all.
Used for labour (work) vs. in labour (baby)
A shaved head means either a Britney melt down (dysfunctional)
vs. fundraising for cancer (held up as a role model) –
What other personal reclamations can I make of my own body?

Keep this flesh vessel tight [runs regularly].
Doing well is resistance.

Just in case you missed it – the Sovereignty exhibition at ACCA was stunning.

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We need to keep leaning into the truth that colonisation isn’t a “once upon a time…” story of something that happened long ago and far away but is still happening here and now. On land that was never ceded – what does being “Australian” look like or mean? You see in the piece by Clinton Nain Water Bottle Bags something beautiful made of found objects: plastic bottles, emu eggs, emu feathers, electrical cable, wire, string… a mix of  what is natural and man-made, a mix of traditional and contemporary.  What does it mean that the contemporary is waste, or is it in the hands of the custodians? What does traditionally acquired knowledge – a different understanding of the world and how to engage it have to teach us? This exhibition provoked this reflection and many more. See more photos and read the (highly recommended!) Sovereignty publication on the ACCA website:

 

To be sovereign is in fact to act with love and
resistance simultaneously. Uncle Banjo Clarke, the
late Gunditjmara statesman, said we must ‘fight
hate with love.’2 If there is a thread that connects
all the artists across the wide diversity of practices
represented in Sovereignty it is this deep love for
family, for truth telling and for beauty.

– Paola Balla –


Sovereignty

ACCA is proud to present Sovereignty, an exhibition focusing upon contemporary art of First Nations peoples of South East Australia, alongside keynote historical works, to explore culturally and linguistically diverse narratives of self-determination, identity, sovereignty and resistance.

Taking the example of Ngurungaeta (Elder) and Wurundjeri leader William Barak (c.1824–1903) as a model – in particular Barak’s role as an artist, activist, leader, diplomat and translator – the exhibition presents the vibrant and diverse visual art and culture of the continuous and distinct nations, language groups and communities of Victoria’s sovereign, Indigenous peoples.

Bringing together new commissions, recent and historical works by over thirty artists, Sovereignty is structured around a set of practices and relationships in which art and society, community and family, history and politics are inextricably connected. A diverse range of discursive and thematic contexts are elaborated: the celebration and assertion of cultural identity and resistance; the significance and inter-connectedness of Country, people and place; the renewal and re-inscription of cultural languages and practices; the importance of matriarchal culture and wisdom; the dynamic relations between activism and aesthetics; and a playfulness with language and signs in contemporary society.

Sovereignty provides an opportunity to engage with critical historical and contemporary issues in Australian society. The exhibition takes place against a backdrop of cultural, political and historical debates related to questions of colonialism and de-colonisation, constitutional recognition, sovereignty and treaty.

Curators
Paola Balla and Max Delany

 

ArtistsIMG_4154

Brook Andrew
William Barak
Lisa Bellear
Jim Berg
Briggs
Trevor Turbo Brown
Amiel Courtin-Wilson / Uncle Jack Charles
Maree Clark
Vicky Couzens
Destiny Deacon & Virginia Fraser
Marlene Gilson
Korin Gamadji Institute
Brian Martin
Kent MorrisIMG_4420
Clinton Nain
Glenda Nicholls
Bill Onus
Steaphan Paton
Bronwyn Razem
Reko Rennie
Steven Rhall
Yhonnie Scarce
Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR)
Peter Waples-Crowe
Lucy Williams-Connelly

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Panellists Rosie Kilvert, Léuli Eshraghi, Paola Balla,  Kamahi King
and Miliwanga Wurrben in conversation

 

Sovereignty is my inalienable right.
It cannot be taken away from me.
– Paola Balla

I try to stay strong within myself. Decolonising for myself.
I am a Wemba-Wemba and Gunditjmara woman, not “aboriginal”.
– Rosie Kilvert

 

I know where I come from – that gives me strength.
Concertina Bush stands for my people.
She only speaks Kriol, people have to understand it.
She is my Voice for the expression of my Gurindji sovereignty.
– Kamahi King

Grew up in the bush. My freedom. My school. Everything I was taught given by mothers, aunties, grandmothers – bound together by respect and as indigenous women.  I was illiterate. Taught by a missionary-lady at a community school.  Such patience teaching us Western ways.

Broke so many protocol. First, I had a male teacher. We’re not allowed to look at/make eye contact with men. “Look at me! Look at me in the eyes when I am speaking to you!” This was one of my first experiences at school. I could not understand what I had done but it must have been something more than I could imagine – I thought of my mother, aunties, cousins… what would they say when they heard this? My sovereignty is as an indigenous person, it’s in my culture, with my people. I found balance… took a very, very long time. Didn’t take away what I had, it’s still in me.
– Miliwanga Wurrben

 

Where you are uninvited you have to make sure you
have first relationships… there is no treaty here.
You have to locate yourself in relationship.

…Every structure is illegal that
doesn’t have treaty/relationship.
– Léuli Eshraghi

Beauty was always very sacred for our women. Scarves, paint… essence, dignity, respect… beauty is the essence of that love. Love yourself for who you are – that is one of our protocols. “Too fat! Eat more!” we have none of that. There is a beauty and grace of being an indigenous woman.  Those who come to work in the clinic and court – they can’t wear short shorts, jeans, tight singlets. We dress in a way that respects the other women. If one doesn’t have those things, we can’t have it either. The young girls like and wear makeup but not when they come home. Nakedness is part of us.  Scarring and painted body.
– Miliwanga Wurrben

 

Q: What will you do on January 26th?
(note: I’ve deliberately chosen not to attribute these quotes as I feel, although they spoke in their own voice, the panelists also spoke as one Voice and I want to express that if I can)

Don’t celebrate either way. I do nothing to give it energy. Day we lost all hope really. I wish that the stamp duty of from the sale of every house would go to local Aboriginal people. To my own mob. This is an example of how we could get past “eating out of the white man’s hand”. I mourn.

Refuse to call it that [Australia Day]. It’s celebrating genocide. I pay thanks to the ancestors and their resilience. Put out a reminder: We’re still here. Surviving and thriving.

I might go to Share the Spirit or a protest. Send prayers to those who have passed and shouldn’t have.

 

The Weaving Country exhibition will run at Footscray Community Arts Centre until 1 April, 2017 and I encourage people to check it out, many of these beautiful pieces are available to buy.

Artists include Sandra Aitken, Eileen Alberts, Donna Blackall, Lee DarrochDebbie Flower, Gail Harradine, Cassie Leatham, Denise Morgan-Bulled, Greta Morgan, Glenda Nicholls, Kathy Nicholls, Marilyne Nicholls, Eva Ponting, Bronwyn Razem and Lisa Waup.

Weaving Country

Weaving Country is a story of weaving and fibrecraft across Aboriginal Victoria from the Victorian Aboriginal Weavers Collective.

In this exhibition we have aimed to create a woven narrative, beginning with baskets as vessels for gathering and fibres as the threads that knit together family and kinship ties.

In this way we liken our first collaborative curatorial journey together as a journey of gathering and collecting.  Having gathered the weavers works into our metaphorical curatorial basket, we have then bought these works together to create a cohesive and beautiful body of work.

Weaving Country is about Country and place.

Each weaver’s generational knowledge of grasses, fibres, harvesting and process is inherent in their practice.  What is not always apparent, and is the idea this exhibition aims to provoke, is the impact environmental changes have on the grasses ad fibres used by the weavers and therefore on the overall health and wellbeing of COuntry and People.  This is reflected in the diverse use of materials and the incorporation of found objects.

The Victorian Aboriginal Weaving Collective speak with one voice through their diverse woven and sculptural forms to the strength and vitality of this continuing and unbroken tradition. These contemporary works demonstrate their innovation yet retiran cultural integrity and truth.

By Vicki Couzens and Hannah Presley

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I arrived late and missed Miliwanga Wurrben but both wonderful and powerful to see the work of young artists presented at Scribe.

Hannah Donnelly read some segments of recent work – dystopian young adult fiction exploring the long term impacts of climate change in Australia.  Asking the audience questions between readings like:

  • what Country do you live on?
  • what water system is on the Country where you live?
  • what is your future? …your children’s future?

Prompting important self-reflection on the ways we are (or aren’t) aware of the impacts of climate change and the ways we’re complicit in not taking good care of Country.

HANNAH DONNELLY

Hannah Donnelly is a Wiradjuri writer who grew up on Gamilaroi Country. She is the creator of Sovereign Trax, an Indigenous music blog which aims to foreground the consumption of music that speaks to collective stories and identities. Hannah’s writing experiments with speculative fiction and Indigenous responses to climate change.

 

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It’s hard to find words to describe what Jack Sheppard shared – all about words but using few he shared a story using his body and video footage of two friends who recently committed suicide, the piece capturing the evolution of his grief, healing and response to that.  Their stories are written on his body and he carries them with him. This evoked the sense of a beginning in an ending and possibility in a situation that feels hopeless. Where he is, they are. The gift of his work was holding space for the piece to mean whatever it might seem or need to mean to each person watching it… below is my attempt to express some of what that was for me watching him.

JACK SHEPPARD

The Honouring is a presentation of a physical theatre work in development, paying homage to Indigenous life and culture in its hardships, beauty and spirituality. Using movement, dialogue, video installations and poetry, the work is influenced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander totems and landscape, with the story journeying to parts of Australia of deep significance to Jack Sheppard.

 

Pen to heart
writing is a full body experience
physical and not just head.
Disparate ideas and pieces of a life
you try to fit together
but they don’t come.
Voice.
Listen.
What are you trying to say?
What are you trying to read?
Winds blow,
walking in your own mess,
dance like no one is watching.
All about words but silent.
I lost my voice again today…
Cuddle up to the pieces
keeping you warm at night.
Collect the pieces up,
we must nurture the ghosts
that lie down with us,
check and care for them.
Shedding clothes,
layers of skin,
who we are.
Naked, unfolding a
piece of paper with the
whole story.
Reflection of self
wraps around you
like a cocoon.
Lie with the dead,
those we can’t save.
I want to sleep but I can’t.
Awake, I’m still awake.

Talitha Fraser

 

Walking home one night, I came across what looked like a torn up dictionary outside the McDonalds on Ballarat Rd.  I’m into a bit of upcycling and paper craft – it makes sense to use books/paper that are being thrown out anyway and this has little illustrations… No cover, torn in sections, mouldy and weathered, unwanted… except for me who’s picking up rubbish thinking “Cute.” and “Score!”

Looking more closely once I got my prize home, I realise it’s not a dictionary but rather some sort of encyclopaedia and it’s old. Really old. Old enough that it’s quite offensive – mostly for its omissions rather than what it explicitly says, for example in a section called “Australia’s History: Chief events in chronological order…”spanning 1788-1939, I can see only one reference made regarding an aboriginal person or place and that was “1876 Death of Truganini, last of Tasmanian aborigines”.  I look her up online to know her story.

A visitor on country myself, I have not (and continue) not to know very much about what right relationship looks like between people and the land. Not having the right words and being afraid of saying the wrong ones, I try and stay silent. To listen and to learn. I have heard people talk about their family members, homes, and culture being lost through colonisation. I have heard them talk about losing language and here am I finding some lying by the side of the road. I find myself wishing I could give it back to who it belongs to.

 

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On the weekend of 24-25 September Whitley College hosted a conference called Constitutions and Treaties: Law, Justice, Spirituality – these are notes from session 9 of 9. We acknowledge that this gathering, listening and learning occurred of the land of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nations and offer our respects to their elders past and present, and all visiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island visitors present.

 

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Line through Papua New Guinea, literally nations were “dividing the world between them”.

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Roger Williams, Baptist theologian, a dissenting voice to the Doctrine of Discovery model – wanted to respect Native Americans, house church on Rhode Island for 6 years. Had to go to England at one point – needed a patent or would be annexed.

The Treaty of Westphalia was the end of the 30 Year war. No right to divide the world in two.  Move from Empires to a rise of nation states.

If we think of the Treaty of Waitangi as an interfaith covenant, what are the implications of that? The phrasing of the words “you will acknowledge no other gods above me” implies an acknowledgement of other gods existing. There is a danger when uniformity is a presumption.  What kinds of covenants can we imagine between polities (e.g. could a treaty have some reference to God or Creator Spirit with Bundjil and representatives of Bundjil’s land)? Any covenants (treaties) would need to be local. Can Christian churches model this?
Made under sovereignty of God (not state/federal Government)?

 

Entering a treaty under State/Federal terms legitimises them and their system, it’s not being legitimised ourselves.

 

Being hard isn’t the same as being not worth doing.

 

What does “local” mean/look like to people who know who they are/where they’re from.

Lutherans practiced a vernacular theology – learned the language of those they lived with whereas as other denominations refused to learn the language (and used theological grounds for that) you have to learn/imposing my theology…

 

On the weekend of 24-25 September Whitley College hosted a conference called Constitutions and Treaties: Law, Justice, Spirituality – these are notes from session 8 of 9. We acknowledge that this gathering, listening and learning occurred of the land of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nations and offer our respects to their elders past and present, and all visiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island visitors present.

Terrific to be part of the Minutes of Evidence project – collaborative performance sparking conversations about structural justice.

British colonisers ran a “Paper Empire” – numbers, counting surveillance… combined with counter-archives (other ways of knowing) can be used to create sources/proofs. Presumption of colonisation (denial of sovereignty) complicit and absolutely imbued in statutes and policies.

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“…powerfully committed to hunting grounds” the Committee couldn’t break or deny this connection to Country… this is why the regional system of Missions was put in place.  The testimony of these men changed the political “solution”/outcomes. Although 50 years later the missions were closed after all and people were centralised.

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On the subject of children being taken away, missionaries testified that:   Those on the Missions knew of all the children in their District when a white couple adopted a girl then no longer wanted her – they were going to send her to Sydney, the Aboriginal people on the Mission appealed to take her in. There is no such things as orphans… every child had two parents. 100s of letters written by Aboriginals exist speaking to self-determination, religious freedom and for rights.

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Political activism was happening pre-1920s.  Is it racial prejudice that dismisses testimony of “pining away” or “affection” for the land as irrational/emotional but this speaks to the depth of feeling of cultural belief/commitment, assertion of rights, sovereignty and justice.  Not able to recognise the implications of what you ‘see’ in front of you but providing testimony of it jsut the same.