Honours Dissertation: the beginning

I have blogged this before but thought it would be interesting to reblog.

When “Back Home” isn’t England: making visible the memories, lives and experiences of some white women in Rhodesia

Introduction

When I ponder on my choice of topic for this dissertation, I remember an incident that makes me reflect on my place, as a white woman and a member of a minority ethnic group, in Rhodesia. This is in 1976 on a tourist bus in Greece – somewhere between Athens and Delphi. An Austrian man, sitting next to me on the bus, is highly sceptical that any white people who are not British are settled in Rhodesia. I feel affronted and defensive that this stranger can, so arbitrarily, dismiss my background. This bewildering sense of being unseen, feeling unseen, is an experience Adrienne Rich expresses as psychic disequilibrium: ‘When someone … describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing’ (in Rosaldo 1989:ix) I understand that this is my experience.

There is an actual moment when I choose the topic for this dissertation – to explore the memories, lives and experiences of white, non-British women immigrants into Rhodesia. In November 1996 I decide to go home to Zimbabwe. I am feeling homesick and miss my family. The idea of using the time I am there to research the experiences of these women, with whom I share a common background, comes to me. I approach Dr Philip Moore (at Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia) and he is enthusiastic. This, in retrospect, is when I realise the idea has been simmering in the background of my life not only since the bus trip in Greece, but since I was a young girl, questioning my ‘otherness’ in school and in the Rhodesian society. I realise this is the haunting space into which I seldom look, the moments of ‘psychic disequilibrium’. I wonder if it is the same for the other women, and if they will speak to me about these things. As the idea develops in my mind I make the decision to go and to find out what I can.

rhodesiamap
British Colony of Rhodesia 1965

RhodesiaLocationMap_final2LoRes

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Honours Dissertation: the beginning

Nyepi, 9 March 2016

So, here we are in Bali on Nyepi day. From 6am there has been no traffic, no noise, no one walking about. People are home with their families. We (the Yoga group) stay in the grounds of Villa Jaya. We practice some Yoga, we swim, we meditate and make quiet conversation together. We spend time alone contemplating our lives and experiences. Tomorrow, back to the rushing around that so many of us are accustomed to. 
Last evening, the Ogah Ogah floats paraded through the streets of Lovina – and all the other towns and villages in Bali. Fearsome models of ogres are carried on bamboo platforms, shoulder high, by teams of men. There is much beating of drums, cymbals and gamelans. Much shouting and chanting to call out the demons. Excited children run around dressed in fancy costumes. Each village or community has their own Ogah Ogah float and compete for prizes as to which one is the scariest. 

The crowds are dense and, on our way to our vantage point, we were separated from two of our group. Fortunately, they found us once the bulk of the procession had passed. 

After the processions are finished the Ogah Ogah models are burned. Formally, they were made of papier mache but now many are built using polystyrene so there are environmental issues at stake.  

 

Nyepi, 9 March 2016