Since the European settlement of Australia, the Indigenous people have been represented in a myriad of ways. The Rabbits (1998), an allegorical picture book by John Marsden (writer) and Shaun Tan (illustrator) and Rabbit Proof Fence (2002), a film directed by Phillip Noyce, are just two examples of this. Techniques such as music, changing camera angles and symbolism are utilised in Rabbit Proof Fence to represent the Aboriginal people as strong-willed and spiritual and in The Rabbits, exaggeration, different colour themes and perspective are used to portray the Aborigines as technologically inferior and overwhelmed against the Europeans.
In both texts, the Indigenous people are represented as oppressed by the Europeans. The Rabbit Proof Fence uses techniques such as slow motion close-ups, quick transition camera shots and intense music to show the strong-willed nature of the Aboriginals, which are be used in the scene where the three girls are taken by constable Riggs. Just before constable Riggs, we already hear the music building up the tension with some soft, yet ominous music and as they see the car, there is a slight silence before the intense music slams suddenly to support and symbolise the chaos and confusion of this part of the scene.
This brief respite in music and the slow motion close-up shots of the horrified expressions on the faces of all of them emphasises the chaos that was about to happen when constable Riggs chases and captures the girls. Even after the girls were obstructed by the car and constable Riggs was taking the girls one by one, they continued to resist, especially Molly, who screamed and kicked the door shut as Riggs attempted to shove her inside the back seat.
The quick transition camera shots that accompany this section of the scene from one character to another, exemplifies the franticness of it. During this scene, we clearly see the considerable amount will of resistance the Aborigines have because of the fact that, although they were powerless against the Europeans, they resisted to the bitter end. On the other hand, in The Rabbits, the Aboriginals (the Numbats) are represented as technologically inferior by the use of techniques such as: colour schemes, exaggeration and vanishing points.
Colour schemes in this book are used effectively to emphasise the Indigenous population’s simplicity in life as the Aboriginal colour schemes consist of hues that blend well and warmly with its surroundings so the general overview of the texture of the painting in smooth. However, when analysing the Europeans (the Rabbits’) settlement in panels such as four and five, the colours are very sharp and more suited to the use of creating hard edges, which has been done as seen from the geometric construction of the objects within these two panels.
In the tenth panel, the exaggeration of the wheat collectors is used to show the Europeans’ superior knowledge in machinery, in not only size, but also the quantity of objects that are attached like the taps. In the eighth panel, another representation of the Aboriginal’s inferiority in equipment is portrayed in the bottom right hand corner by an absolute domination in manpower and weapons. This is also epitomized by the vanishing point in that particular frame, which basically shows the reader that the army of soldiers is close to infinite.
The spirituality of the Aboriginal people towards their land is portrayed in Rabbit Proof Fence by using symbolism, music and camera shifts, when Molly and Daisy on the verge of losing hope in the desert. In this scene, the very slow, lamenting music gives an audio representation of the two girls’ fatigue and hopelessness, using small accents to do so at every step. When the girls do collapse onto the ground, Molly sees an eagle soaring in the sky above them.
This eagle, as explained by Molly’s mother in opening scene, was a symbol of protection and safety in Aboriginal culture. The appearance of this eagle in their time of need emphasises how the Aboriginals are truly bonded, psychologically and physically, to their land and culture. In this scene, the camera shifts back and forth between their elders back at Jigalong and the girls in the desert. This constant transition conveys the relationship between the girls (protected by the eagle) and the elders praying in an Aboriginal dialect for the girl’s safety.
With these few examples, we can see how the Indigenous people have a special bond with their land through their cultural religion, which, in return, assists them when it is needed. Powerlessness of the Numbats (Aboriginals) against the Rabbits (Europeans) in The Rabbits is shown through the use of words within the mise en scene. Within this picture book, Marsden contributes to the meaning of the story to the readers through very short, but powerful sentences such as: “Sometimes we had fights/But there were too many rabbits/We lost the fights.
” The way these sentences are structured so that it places emphasise the appropriate scenario that is occurring in each panel. With Shaun Tan, he conveys the powerless nature of the Indigenous by placing the Europeans in the foreground and the Aboriginal’s away from the focal point. For example, in panel eleven, the rabbits (Europeans) arjplaced in the foreground of the scene, holding up the words, “and they stole our children” and the tiny numbats (Aboriginals) are off into the far distance, holding up their hands in a fruitless gesture whilst their children are being taken away from them.
This representation of the numbats in the background shows how the Europeans have gained most of the control in their land, causing a massive imbalance in power. The Rabbits and Rabbit Proof Fence provide audiences with different representations of the Indigenous culture by presenting various ideas by using visual and literary techniques to support them with: music, changing camera angles, exaggeration and perspective being a few that were discussed.
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Topic: Representation of Indigenous Cultures
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