Songlines, Cultural Memory, and Poetry

I happened to be reading a poem by DalvaSonglines” that made me think of the book by that name by Bruce Chatwin. I remember reading Bruce Chatwin’s little testament to the aborigine’s of the Australian Outback, Songlines years ago just before he died of AIDS. In it he surmised (he being an outsider not a anthropologist, etc.) that the songlines were part of the dreamtime roadmaps of the Aboriginal culture: a cartographic poetry that was both the holder of their cultural memories and a useful tool that allowed them through their oral, ritual, and artistic enactments or performance art to remember the world as a virtual reality overlay easily accessible as markers in their long seasons of migration and the hunt as they learned as collectives to survive in the great Outback deserts. When you think that they spent 60,000 years in Australia learning these generational lines of myth, poetry, shamanic practice and that the cultural memory of the Dreamtime became the landscape of survival and ritual enactment as a survival mechanism for their cultures as a whole one is amazed. But that was Chatwin’s book… who know what the actual aboriginal people thought of it. Still interesting read and Dalva’s poem made me think about it and has similar tracings for our own culture…

Makes me want to dip back into the truth underlying his quest: the Dreamtime, Dreamsongs, Songlines, etc..  How cultural transmission is the nexus of survival and how our modern cultures have slowly wiped the memories of our past bit by bit from the planetary memes of our globalized society and begun to domesticate the cultural complex and contexts of the various multi-generational cultures into a larger entity. It’s as if what transpired during the great influx from hunting to agricultural based societies at the end of the Ice Age were happening on an even larger scale now. We know the transitions from hunting and nomadic linear systems of thinking and being took thousands of years to become domesticated into agricultural based systems of cyclical and temporal systems of stasis and return of the same, year end and year out quantification of the permanent growth and decline of soil based civilization. Most of the great civilizations declined and died based on their ultimate inability to keep those cycles of the agricultural complex going during times of drought and water depletion. We even now are teetering on this same issue, and it rather than the issue of water rising around the edges of our continents is the real issue. We’ve based our systems of the renewal of rain, water, soil, etc. But have built systematic dam systems that have over the past hundred years disallowed soil replenishment. But this is a long involved tale, not one I’m up too for this morning. 🙂



1 thought on “Songlines, Cultural Memory, and Poetry

  1. Pingback: Impossible Object(s) & Other Speculations from Dark Ecologies | Senselogi©

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