Monday, April 01, 2013

An Education

You may have picked up previously on Harriet's rather passionate and intense nature.  It is, at times, something truly wondrous to behold.

In her class this term they have been learning about Aboriginal culture (as I've mentioned before) and Harriet, has started reading a series of books called 'Our Australian Girl', which are not as horrific as they sound.  In fact they're fantastic pieces of Australian history writ large to engage the minds of precocious young things like our own Harriet.  Her current one of interest is the 'Poppy' series, about an Aboriginal/Chinese orphan.  I'm imagining that this series has been the inspiration for her current fascination with being...well, with being a subjugated Aboriginal servant.

Harriet came up to me one deliciously warm afternoon after school last week and told me that her name was 'Katawungoo' and that I was her master (she called me "Sir" at all times).  I was to fashion her with a more Anglicised name, befitting her current role in the household, so I went with 'Katie'. 

Turns out 'Katie' is quite the domestic help.  She swept.  She set up beds outside for Ted and I to sleep in (Ted was "Master Ted").  For herself, well, Katie threw a blanket down on the hard tiled surface outdoors for her own sleeping area - she was very aware of her place within the hierarchy of the household.  I was instructed to speak to her more forcefully, and to stop doing even small things for myself (such as pouring water, setting the table, etc.).

When James walked through the door, he was accosted by a bouncing servant.  Accustomed as he is to walking through the door from work, only to be thrust into another time/place/era, he did come up to me and ask exactly what was going on in this instance.  I just explained to him that we had to uphold the racist patriarchy for another couple of hours.


But I tell you - it was difficult.  There really must have been a deep seated belief that slaves and then servants were truly lesser people or barely even people at all, in order to keep ordering them around as Katawungoo insisted we order her around.  It felt terrible  And I had to ask Harriet after about two minutes into dinner to please stop playing this game because it was making me feel not only uncomfortable and sad, but it was putting me into a terribly angry and short mood.  Thank goodness she agreed.

Well it would have brought up a few questions at the hospital emergency room later that night too.  When she was outside in the faded light just before bed, there was an accident involving the end of a broom and Ted's chin.  Let's just say there was much blood, hysterical screaming, rapid car drives and no real damage done in the end. 

On Sunday we went to the markets and had very little organised for the rest of the afternoon (read: blissful, sweet nothing). 

Harriet saw her chance to educate.  Because I do believe there may have been around twenty-odd minutes there where we weren't all engaged in some sort of social commentary.

We were gently rounded up to attend an 'Animal Rights' talk.  Harriet had been busy making cards, signs, gathering books and setting up her conference area.  Once we were seated, she stood at the front with her sign displayed proudly ("animals - stop killing animals.  evreyone (sic) can make a difrence (sic)").

Ted was absolutely and completely enthralled.  He engaged with all of her questions, surmised some of his own conclusions based on her discussions and even talked about some points from a different point of view ("Let's pretend I eat meat.  That would mean...").

Harriet was impassioned, eloquent and thorough.  She had written out some Animal Fact cards (see them above) which we selected from her and then read out to the group to discuss.  We also had to come up with some of our own facts and points of discussion. Seriously?  It was totally freaking awesome.  She was so serious about it all as well, I loved her conviction.

 Ted was also inspired.  So inspired was he, that afterwards he decided to give a talk on a topic.  His choice?  Well, himself.  He sat behind the whiteboard and wrote his name from upside down as if to compel us all to take his authority with the necessary gravitas awarded to those who can achieve such a skill.

They're pretty awesome, my two.  After the long Easter-inspired weekend we're just had it has been delicious to end it on such a high, happy note.  We've been to the Easter Show, Harriet had her first violin concert, the two of us went a-visiting, we had a markets trip where we ran into a couple of other friends and had some delicious culinary experiences.

 In fact there is so much I haven't had a chance to blog yet that you'll just have to take my word for it - we've been busy with parties and friends and sewing and shoots and plans and writing and...well, all sorts of things really!  Ted has been driving us to despair at times, but we're hoping the volume and madness will eventually calm down.  I'm hoping I might be able to drop back in with some highlights but tomorrow night Jimbo and I are off to the Opera House.  At night.  Oh god, the madness of it all!

1 comment:

Genevieve said...

Olive is also loving the 'Our Australian Girl' series. She's not read Poppy yet but the Nellie and Letty stories have provided such a great starting point about so many things - colonialism, poverty, sexism, racism...It's never ending. Finding ways to engage with this stuff for a 6 year old is endlessly stimulating and challenging. I love it.

I love reading where Harriet is at at the moment. What an amazing little person! It's particularly heartening given Olive is also towards the more highly strung/emotionally intense end of the spectrum but at age 6.5 has recently turned a corner to become much more thoughtful, empathic and better able to self-regulate. So far. all going better. Phew. I look forward to the future.