As you may be aware, the context of this discussion is rooted in important critiques such as Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang's 2012 article 'Decolonization is not a metaphor.' 'Decolonization,' they explain, 'brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life; it is not a metaphor for other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools.'
Where I begin this piece can be a decision I make about you. I can decide that you are keen to decolonise your creative practice and teaching, or have been told to. And so this is where I begin. Or it can be where it began for me. When I understood the relationship between how I make, how I teach making, and the state of the world. Or I can begin just before I had the courage to understand and act on these entwined concerns. I can begin with talking about the state of the climate, the urgent transformation that is needed, and its relationship to colonisation. As the researchers in the paper I’ll be talking about did. I can begin with an acknowledgement that I am writing this on/with unceded Bunurong Country of the Kulin Nation. As it is not just asked of me as a settler-colonialist, and it is what I’ve found to be an important ritual of practice, and because I believe contributes to the efforts for Land back. But it is also connected to the paper about decolonisation. In the end, the decision about how to act is clear. I am writing to you, speaking to you now, because this is part of my joyous responsibility to our relationship. I share my continuous work-in-progress with you, with the birds outside my window, and to all connected with what you and I do.
Right Relations is the term the researchers, Irmelin Gram-Hanssen, Nicole Schafenacker, and Julia Bentz, invoke in their 2021 paper 'Decolonizing Transformations Through “Right Relations"'. 'Through our experience in research and activism,' they explain, 'we have heard the emerging term "right relations" used orally and colloquially to describe the antithesis to colonialism.' We cannot attend to urgent climate needs, they explain, without understanding the role of colonialism. For instance, there are attempts to 'transform' research, and design, that end up repeating the same extractive, and exploitative practices of colonialism.
So, there is the need for the literal decolonisation: returning colonies back to independence. And, '[t]aking the concept of decolonization a step deeper,' the authors explain, 'it also refers to the unsettling of colonial mindsets and assumptions among both colonizing and colonized peoples and institutions.’
The authors explain that ‘if colonization implies extraction and oppression, decolonization implies ‘right relations’ with an emphasis on respect, reciprocity and just actions.’ '"Right relations," then, can be seen as an obligation to live up to the responsibilities involved when taking part in a relationship—be it to other humans, other species, the land or the climate.”
It is worth repeating that:
'"Right relations," then, can be seen as an obligation to live up to the responsibilities involved when taking part in a relationship—be it to other humans, other species, the land or the climate.'
Aha! This is what met me. Firstly: how to do the necessary work to unlearn and remake ways of being that aren't colonial. And secondly, with an emphasis on the many possible relations we can have.
In my own deep work, I had already developed a different framing of narrative design that didn't categorise according to roles and media elements (such as writer, sound designer, artist, etc). I had shared the ideas in industry talks, guest lectures, workshops, and currently in my book. I thought about how we learn and work with fellow humans, animals, plants. But I also made sure to include realtionship with self, with artificial life (robots, AI), and what I call the 'more-than-Earth', such as spirits, ancestors, guides, aliens, and more. It's about all our possible relationships!
And so for me, I've found that a common way the dominant culture operates is through ranked relations. I speak about this in my book, but it is how there is a recognised relationship with everything. But that relationship is ranked. You're either better, superior, have more authority, or power than another person, creature or thing, or you're trying to be or have it.
This plays out in all the aspects of (my) life: interpersonal relationships, relationships at work, with colleagues, across artforms (which artform is better?), with teacher and student, in story design, so on.
It doesn't have to be that way! And so these ways of framing our relationships can be a way of noticing and practicing right relations.
|Story Design||Project Development Design||Teaching Design|
|R/ship with Self||Is a relationship with self represented? And is it one of self-loathing and power over mind, power over body?||How is your r/ship with self, the time you need to process, think, incubate, rest, replenish, taking into account with team design and scheduling?||Is there a way for everyone's r/ship with self can be nurtured, trusted, and valued, rather than ignored and belittled?|
|R/ship with People||Are characters/players always in a superior/inferior dynamic, or in battle for power over another?||Are r/ships with team members nurtured and encouraged? Are they transactional with involvement and respect according to perceived status? What can you do to create a safe, accessible, approachable, and regenerative experience for team members?||Are the teachers in the room all-knowing, the only authority, and not in need of learning too? How can everyone co-learn? How can people usually ignored and devalued be uplifted in a safe space? What can you do to create a safe, accessible, approachable, and regenerative experience for all students?|
|R/ship with Diff Species||Are human characters/players always superior to or in for power relations with different species? How are different species, such as animals, insects, and artificial life, depicted?||What can you do to create a safe and regenerative experience for any animals involved in the production as cast, with crew, including pets, and those animals affected by depictions in the work?||How are other species recognised as part of the experience of life, and co-learning, and how is the impact on them recognised?|
|R/ship with Nature||Are human characters/players ranked higher in some hierarchy with nature? Is nature background fodder, or for use in a human endeavour?||How can the processes of the development recognise and respect the involvement and impact on the environment?||How can the r/ship with nature be acknowedged in the subject matter, and the way students learn?|
|R/ship with More-than-Earth||Is what is seen, what is visible to the human eye and scientific knowledge, automatically ranked higher knowledge that other ways of being and knowing?||How can the team design and practices respect people with different beliefs and relationships and ancestoral duties?||How can the teaching design and practices respect people with different beliefs and relationships and ancestoral duties?|
I hope there is something here that may meet you in your own journey of joyful responsibility to yourself and everyone and everything, just as these have for me. I look forward to hearing any thoughts, experiences, and ideas about all kinds of co-designing the world! :)