Today I had a meeting with Eleanor Casella. She had returned from Australia bearing gifts, in particular some wire, wood and bone for me. I have outlined in a previous post the networks I had inadvertently tapped into whilst investigating the production processes associated with Kimberley Points. Today I received the following precise inventory from John Pickard along with the associated materials.
The selection of wire ranges between 2mm and 4mm, has both oval and round profiles made from both steel and iron. All are from New South Wales and are provenanced, dated to within 10 years and described for my benefit.
Next is two pieces of wood. The larger of the two is Yarran (Accacia homophylla) that has been burned and has therefore hardened. The second smaller piece is a non-burned piece of Mulga (Acacia aneura), also a hardwood.
Finally the forearm bones from an adult male Eastern Grey Kangaroo, skinned, de-fleshed, and then boiled to remove remaining materials. The thing that brings these disparate materials together is the aboriginal use of them to make Kimberley Points.
The people who have brought these things together for me are Denis Gojak, John Pickard and Eleanor Casella. This material was collected by John mainly on his last fieldtrip into New South Wales in August of this year. The kangaroo had been shot in the head and left by the side of the road. John found it probably the day after its death.
The coordination and distribution element was organised by Denis Gojak and, after being responsible for making initial introductions, the ‘mule’ function was fulfilled by Eleanor on her way home. Whilst obviously a stickler for detail (see packing order) Denis also personalised the whole process with this fridge magnet.
I am a little stuck for what to say. The title of this post is taken from a track by the artist Polly Jean Harvey and seems appropriate. Last Monday and Tuesday here in Manchester there was strike action in response to the ongoing economic rationalisation of our Archaeology department. Inevitably a number of my colleagues will be losing their jobs due to this restructuring process. As a consequence, the overall mood here is pretty sombre. The arrival of these materials at this moment seems to shine a light upon a different set of values. To remind me that there is indeed an alternate way of operating within the world beyond that of economic rationality. It is not just the kindness and coordination, but the willingness to go to this effort for someone that neither Denis or John have ever met. Their time has not been measured in currency, and the quality of their work remains un-compromised by the fact that no money has changed hands.
Receiving this parcel truly gives me hope. I am low down on the food chain at Manchester. The restructuring will not affect me directly as my contract is temporary anyway. It will however affect the people who I have worked with through my Masters and Doctorate. It is the people who have provided me with the majority my education and experience within the subject of archaeology, they are being ‘re-structured’. I don’t really know where I am going with this post. I am very grateful to the above individuals for going to this effort on my behalf to provide me with authentic materials. However, my gratitude is not really about the materials, their actions have warmed my heart. Eleanor, Denis and John have reminded me of the importance of values, and of operating in the world in accord with your values. Even when, and perhaps most importantly when, an alternate set of values is being actively imposed from above. So in summary, thank you to Denis, Eleanor and John for reminding me what it is to be a sentient human being, as opposed to a calculating machine.
This is a link to the membership page of the University and College Union
This is a link to the Facebook Resist Restructuring Manchester page