"The Old People had brooms":

Yanyuwa women, material culture and resistance

Brigid Catherine Rose Hill, John James Bradley, Rachel Veronica Standfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

This article investigates the complex and multiple meanings associated with one piece of Australian Aboriginal material culture, a broom made by Yanyuwa woman Emalina Evans a-Wanjabi in the 1980s. Yanyuwa people constitute one nation of the myriad Aboriginal peoples of Australia, with Yanyuwa country being in the south-west Gulf of Carpentaria, in the far north of Australia.

In this article, we explore both the uses of and the meanings associated with brooms within Aboriginal and colonial contexts. Emalina a-Wanjabi’s broom stands as a testament to her response to the colonial imposition on Yanyuwa women during the assimilationist years of 1950s Australia. The broom highlights the false and essentialist rhetoric invented concerning Aboriginal identity in the eyes of the coloniser. Emalina’s experiences of welfare intervention in her early life may have contributed to her decision to manufacture this broom in her later years. Surveillance into Aboriginal home life, and routine inspections conducted by welfare administrators played a role in Emalina’s formative years, as was the case for Aboriginal people in many regions of Australia. For Emalina welfare intervention resulted in the removal of two of her children during the period we call the “Stolen Generations”. Interventions into Aboriginal family life by colonial authorities, based in racialised discourses of cleanliness and domesticity, have played key roles in the colonisation of Australia and have had particular impact on Aboriginal women. Emalina’s broom therefore becomes a particularly powerful response to colonial discourses of cleanliness.

Material evidence of Aboriginal women’s resistance appears less often in studies of material culture and anthropology more generally. Exploring the meanings associated with the broom as a physical manifestation of resistance allows us to recognise a significant assertion of women’s cultural identity and women’s essential roles as holders of knowledge within the Yanyuwa community, as well as women’s roles in resisting colonisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-126
Number of pages25
JournalStudies in Arts and Humanities
Volume3
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Cite this

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abstract = "This article investigates the complex and multiple meanings associated with one piece of Australian Aboriginal material culture, a broom made by Yanyuwa woman Emalina Evans a-Wanjabi in the 1980s. Yanyuwa people constitute one nation of the myriad Aboriginal peoples of Australia, with Yanyuwa country being in the south-west Gulf of Carpentaria, in the far north of Australia.In this article, we explore both the uses of and the meanings associated with brooms within Aboriginal and colonial contexts. Emalina a-Wanjabi’s broom stands as a testament to her response to the colonial imposition on Yanyuwa women during the assimilationist years of 1950s Australia. The broom highlights the false and essentialist rhetoric invented concerning Aboriginal identity in the eyes of the coloniser. Emalina’s experiences of welfare intervention in her early life may have contributed to her decision to manufacture this broom in her later years. Surveillance into Aboriginal home life, and routine inspections conducted by welfare administrators played a role in Emalina’s formative years, as was the case for Aboriginal people in many regions of Australia. For Emalina welfare intervention resulted in the removal of two of her children during the period we call the “Stolen Generations”. Interventions into Aboriginal family life by colonial authorities, based in racialised discourses of cleanliness and domesticity, have played key roles in the colonisation of Australia and have had particular impact on Aboriginal women. Emalina’s broom therefore becomes a particularly powerful response to colonial discourses of cleanliness. Material evidence of Aboriginal women’s resistance appears less often in studies of material culture and anthropology more generally. Exploring the meanings associated with the broom as a physical manifestation of resistance allows us to recognise a significant assertion of women’s cultural identity and women’s essential roles as holders of knowledge within the Yanyuwa community, as well as women’s roles in resisting colonisation.",
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"The Old People had brooms": Yanyuwa women, material culture and resistance. / Hill, Brigid Catherine Rose; Bradley, John James; Standfield, Rachel Veronica.

In: Studies in Arts and Humanities, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2017, p. 102-126.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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