By Rosie Kalina © | Wemba Wemba/Gunditjmara
From midnight, Victoria will be in Stage 3 shutdown in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 also known as coronavirus. All the shops are shut, the malls, the retailers, nail salons and tattoo parlours, the night clubs and bars, and playgrounds blocked off. Footage of Paris and New York’s dead empty streets on the news. Weddings restricted to five guests only, and devastatingly, ten guests per funeral. Gatherings of people that exceed two people outside of your family could land you a $1600 fine.
People getting ushered away from public spaces and away from each other. Police are given the right to rock up to homes to check people are self-isolating and stopping people on the street and in their cars.
A lot of people are freaking out about these new measures, as they feel their freedom restrained, although to blackfullas, this type of policing is nothing new, but something that our people have always faced for merely existing in this colony.
Ever since I could remember, my family, especially my nan, would tell me scary stories, make me watch scary movies, play pranks on me and would bust out laughing– that’s blackfulla humour and I think this kind of humour comes from going through tough times, it’s survival. And they were toughening me up with love, laughter and a healthy dose of fear.
My great grandmother used to tell my mum that the apocalypse was coming, that as First Nations people, we have already experienced our own end of the world, it didn’t look like extraterrestrial beings coming to invade from the skies, but ghost like figures in tall ships equipped with guns, carrying disease. “The end of the world was coming in the future, there will be fires floods and sickness” She continued “we’ll be right though, bub. Our people have been through this before and we’ll know what to do, we know how to survive.”
And to say that she knew how to survive wasn’t hyperbole, she, and my grandmother are survivors, survivors of men, violence, poverty and racism, overt racism and systematic racism that had the government restricting their movements, their finances, their entire lives.
Skip forward to my life today, I’m twenty-four years old, I’m an artist and associate producer for YIRRAMBOI, currently working from home in isolation, for which I’m so incredibly grateful to be able to do. I’m dealing with this a lot better than I thought I would, as someone who has always been called a hypochondriac and has dealt with anxious intrusive thoughts, I thought that under these circumstances I would be a nervous wreck. But I’m coming to realise, I’m getting through with a level head. Maybe nan was preparing me all along. I can’t help but think, if intergenerational trauma can be passed down, so can resilience.
That’s not to say, that anyone experiencing anxiety right now isn’t strong- whatever the reaction, it’s valid. It is a terrifying circumstance that we are facing. It’s something that we’re each dealing with differently. Vulnerable people will be greatly affected more so than others.
This pandemic is exposing the cracks in the colony that people didn’t want to see before: capitalism doesn’t work, ‘unskilled’ workers like cleaners and supermarket workers, are the ones keeping everyone’s lives afloat, and the gap between First Nations and non-First Nations life expectancy is still twenty years apart. I could go on. This system is fragile.
As I go through my days of isolation, every day I am thankful that I am safe in my home, and I take the time and space I have to express myself and focus on what I want to create without the confines of the pressure from a capitalistic society, that measures worth with productivity based on profitable outcome. I’ve found this time to discover what truly motivates me.
It’s made me realise now more than ever- why art and story-telling are so incredibly important, it’s a means for survival, for thousands of years our people have shared stories to teach our children lessons, how to survive and get through life.
Even though great nanny Rosie used to say that the apocalypse was inevitable, she reassured mum in the wake of the destruction, all the ‘little people’ the marginalised groups would be on top, and the powerful oppressors would switch in society and finally see true suffering.
Aside from bingeing Netflix and Tik Tok videos, what is getting me through this period of isolation is the resilience and survival skills and humour instilled in me from my matriarchs.
This article is part of Blak Bloggers, a program as part of Resilience in Isolation that invites First Nations writers to put their isolation experiences in words.
Image credit: Rosie Kalina at dis rupt at YIRRAMBOI Festival 2019. Photo by James Henry.