Thursday, July 09, 2009

The role of the arts in presenting New England's life

Train Reading – Jonathan F Vance’s History of Canadian Culture looks at elements of Canadian cultural history in part from an Australian perspective. Reading this book, I have been musing over part of the role of the arts in presenting us back to ourselves. I have also been musing over the Canadian recognition of regional identity.

There is a commonly help perception in Australia that there are limited regional differences and that, to the degree that there are, they reflect state or metropolitan differences.

I cannot agree with this simply because I grew up in a world that was not the same as conventional stereotypes or accepted wisdom as presented in, for example, the Sydney papers. Or, for that matter, the various state history curricula.

Tom Roberts bailed up Consider, for a moment, this painting by Tom Roberts, Bailed Up.

Canadians worry a lot about the influence of the US on their culture. They try to present their own culture back so all Canadians can recognise it.

New England has not been so lucky.

Bailed Up was painted near Inverell. It is an instantly recognisable scene.

Like Roberts' painting of Edward Ogilvie that I featured in Saturday Morning Musings - New England's Ogilvie dynasty, this painting is part of New England's history.

Roberts himself was not a New Englander, nor does he have to be. My point is that the visual imagery he created of New England, the historical context surrounding that imagery, is largely lost to New Englanders.

When images are re-presented, they become internalised in new ways, carrying a culture forward. When images including their written are excluded, the culture suffers.

Some, New Englanders included, say there is no such thing as a New England culture. They are wrong, because geography an shared history does create links. The culture is not harmonious nor uniform, but it does exist. 

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