Saturday, April 25, 2009

National Geographic - Australia’s Aborigines

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The Gagudju aborigines of northern Australia represent the longest unbroken culture in human history, having passed along their traditions for 40,000 years. Now, however, it seems the Gagudju are experiencing their final generation, as young members of the tribe have gone off to practice the ways of modern civilization. In this fascinating and often beautiful tape from National Geographic, tribal elders of the Gagudju display some of their rituals before they become lost to history. As the aborigines coexist closely with nature, the tape also features considerable footage of the exotic animals in the Kakadu National Park, home to the tribe. The aborigines have hunted the vicious saltwater crocodile, and have passed along many legends about the birds and lizards found in this amazing environment. One young aborigine, the son of a tribal elder, works today as a park ranger at Kakadu, and the tape follows his efforts to reconcile the traditions of his ancestors with his life in modern society. As one would expect from National Geographic, this tape features astonishing nature photography as well as solidly researched material on the Gagudju people. The scenes of the elders trying to pass on their lore are touching, as is the mention that one elder often cries at night because he realizes he is the last of his people, as the younger generation no longer undergoes the initiation rituals. This tape would be worthwhile for the gorgeous photography alone, but it is also an intelligent last look at a vanishing culture. –Robert J. McNamara

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