Racist conceptions of Vanuatu’s national language
We entered a tourist trinket shop in Port Vila recently and saw this design printed on a T-shirt. It is written in a way that suggests that “mixmasta blong Jesus Christ” is the Bislama term for ‘helicopter’, complete with the dictionary-like part of speech “n.” for ‘noun’ (a mixmaster was a brand of electric hand cake mixers). “Ha ha ha, aren’t the natives quaint”. There are a number of blogs where this lexical travesty is also promoted. Here is one of them. This is totally wrong and is a figment of the racist and infantile imaginations of expatriate Australians who characterise Melanesian people and their languages as infantile and stupid. The Bislama word for helicopter is ‘helikopta’— English being the main lexifying language for Bislama. No other Bislama speakers we know of have ever heard of this infantilised term for helicopter. The morons who designed the T-shirt obviously didn’t check Terry Crowley’s authoritative ‘A New Bislama Dictionary’ where the word ‘helikopta’ is entered as the term for the English equivalent. The mixmasta meme came out of expatriate Papua New Guinea some decades ago and has been replicated from one racist dumb-fuck brain to another, all the way to the Port Vila tourist souvenir shop.
To kill one man is to be guilty of a capital crime, to kill ten men is to increase the guilt tenfold, to kill a hundred men is to increase it one hundredfold. This the rulers of the earth all recognize, and yet when it comes to the greatest crime – waging war on another state – they praise it! […] If a man on seeing a little black were to say it is black, but on seeing a lot of black were to say it is white, it would be clear that such a man could not distinguish black and white. […] So those who recognize a small crime as such, but do not recognize the wickedness of the greatest crime of all […] cannot distinguish right and wrong.
Two of the great artists of Western Arnhem Land, Lofty Bardayal Nadjamerrek AO (left) and Mick Kubarkku. My recollection is that I took this photograph at the Manmoyi airstrip around 1980. Lofty’s painting is of the euro Kalkberd (Macropus robustus) and Mick’s the saltwater crocodile Kinga (Crocodilus porosis). Kalkberd is a beast of the rocky ridges and hills and the males have very powerful arms and shoulders. Mick’s crocodile is shown either in an underwater cave or amongst fallen trees in the water — hard to tell. These men were prolific artists, for decades often producing one of two such paintings every two weeks. Both were beautiful and humble men. As well as his role as artist and ceremonial leader Bardayal went on to found Warddeken Land Management Limited, an indigenous NGO that now looks after the natural and cultural wonders of the Western Arnhem Plateau. The paintings are on flattened sheets of bark from the stringybark tree (Eucalyptus tetrodonta) and the pigments used are natural ochres from the bush which the bininj of western Arnhem Land have used for perhaps 50,000 years to paint on caves and bark shelters.
The Giant Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa latipes) is a native of Borneo and we found this spectacular specimen in Sarawak a few years ago. The Giant Bee reaches 35mm in length and is built like a tank. On body bulk it is the biggest bee in the world but for length is outclassed by the Giant Mason Bee (Megachile pluto) which is found in the Northern Moluccas and can grow to 40mm. However it’s a more slender beast and the Giant Carpenter Bee has a good case to argue for title of world’s biggest bee. As the name suggests they excavate their nests from timber and nest entrances are recorded up to 2cm in diameter. It seems likely that my picture shows a male Carpenter Bee surveying his domain from his territorial perch.
It was finch heaven down near the mouth of Rapid Creek this week. Native and introduced grasses are carrying full heads of seed and the Casuarina trees are still dropping seed-filled fruit. Jan counted more than 100 Chestnut Breasted Mannikins, 50 Double Bars and 50 Crimson Finches. Very happy to find a male and female Crimson Finch so prepared to pose for the camera —they’re not as flashy as Central Australia’s Painted Finches but still gorgeous little birds.
Still all fuzz and pin feathers this young Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) was ready to confidently explore the big world and get in some foraging practice on the lawns at Rapid Creek yesterday afternoon. Mum and dad were nearby and keeping an eye out, but being rather remarkably relaxed about a human with a camera. I had expected to be dive-bombed by the parents but the whole family was very laid back.
Brown Honeyeaters (Lichmera indistincta) goofing around after a splash in the bird bath. Lots of Brown Honeyeaters here at my place.
Colonel Alexandra Kudasheva was a Russian soldier and sportswoman who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She was famed for her endurance horse riding skills and for commanding one of the first mixed-sex military units.
Born around 1875, Kudasheva is believed to be the daughter of a soldier in the Orenburg Cossacks, and although details of her childhood are uncorroborated it seems she was raised among Cossack soldiers. She married a cavalry officer in the 6th Ural Cossack Regiment, and according to some sources fought alongside him in the Russo-Japanese War. However her husband died, leaving her to raise their children alone.
In 1910, once her children had left home, Kudasheva decided to ride solo across Eurasia from Harbin, China to St Petersburg in order to demonstrate the physical prowess of a female Cossack. She set out on the 8000 mile journey in May 1910, equipped with only her traditional Cossack uniform and weapons, and what she could carry in her saddlebags. She was honoured by a number of Cossack regiments along her way and had become a celebrity in the media by the time she reached St Petersburg in August 1911. In 1913-4 she undertook a second cross-continental ride from Vladivostok to St Petersburg, for which she rode the Tsar’s personal horse. She published a diary about her experiences as well as writing poetry.
With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Kudasheva enlisted in her husband’s old regiment as a volunteer and fought alongside them in East Prussia. Her bravery earned her a promotion to lieutenant and the Order of St George medal, the highest military decoration. By 1915, she had risen to command the 600-strong light cavalry regiment, which was notable for containing women troopers and officers among its ranks. By 1917 women formed approximately half the regiment, including the notable woman soldier Olga Kokovtseva.
In 1917 Kudasheva was travelling incognito through Central Asia, possibly on an espionage mission, after which records of her cease. It is possible that she was the woman named Alexandra Kudachev who is recorded as being executed in Kazakhstan in 1921, however her fate is not definitively known.
The Wet Season is becoming more active and the atmospherics and skyscapes more colourful and dynamic. This morning we had storms across the harbour, with a fuzzy rainbow struggling on the north of it while Nightcliff was bright and sunny. Crested terns were amongst the foreshore denizens today.