Indigenous mobility as resistance: Georgine Clarsen, ‘Black As: performing Indigenous difference’, in Nancy Cook, David Butz (eds), Mobilities, Mobility Justice and Social Justice, Routledge, 2018


Abstract: In 2014, four Yolngu men from the Arnhem Land township of Ramingining in Australia’s north emailed a video clip to David Batty, who has been making films with Indigenous people for over 30 years.1 Chico, Jerome, Dino and their adopted white brother, Joe, sent Batty footage of their crocodile hunting exploits and invited him to create a television series with them. The result was the 24-part series Black As. Shot during the 2015 Dry season in the Djambarrpuyngu language (of the Yolngu Matha language chain) with English subtitles, this low-budget series, of which the four stars are co-owners, tells a comic story of a hunting trip.2 The series went directly to web streaming via the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and quickly became one of the broadcaster’s highest-rated Iview programs, with more than 1.2 million views nationally for full episodes and 23 million hits worldwide on one promotional clip alone. Batty’s media company, Rebel Films, has so far attracted some 150 million viewers around the world, including for the Spanish-language version on Facebook and YouTube. As I write, Batty and his crew are in post-production on the second Black As series, financed by ABC Iview sales and a crowdfunding campaign. In this chapter, I analyze this lighthearted representation of young Indigenous men’s movement across their Country as an enactment of mobility justice. Following Tim Cresswell’s (2010) formulation of mobility as a political entanglement of movement, representation and embodied practice, I read Black As as a specifically Indigenous expression of mobility, which is necessarily politicized in the face of the ongoing settler-colonialism oppressions that have imposed deep inequalities and uneven mobilities on Indigenous subjects. Exemplifying what Audra Simpson (2014) calls a politics of refusal, the men move their unreliable vehicles across the unsmoothed terrain of their Country. They deploy their embodiment as encultured Indigenous men of that place to move on their own terms, outside settler movement regimes, to find bush foods and tell their story to camera. They thereby reanimate (as filmic representations) for a new generation and circumstances cultural practices that are tens of thousands of years old. As Simpson demonstrates, Indigenous refusal is more than resistance to injustice; it is also a political, generative, embodied assertion of ongoing sovereignty. In this chapter I tease out the story presented in Black As as a refusal of the historical and contemporary forces that have sought to constrain Indigenous mobilities and deny Indigenous sovereignty. Dino Wanybarrnga, Chico Wanybarrnga, Jerome Lilypiyana and Joe Smith’s performances of mobilities and (essential to the humor of the series) immobilities offer a proud story of self-determined movement, which they have mobilized across their immediate community and the globe with the help of non-Indigenous filmmaker allies.

%d bloggers like this: