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Exhibition

NAIDOC week in the national capital –
a collection at the museum displays 
the finest of Aboriginal culture to the settler nation.
Boxed, framed, encased, encapsulated artifacts,
wall to wall canvases, storyless cabinets,
soundless words captioning blank-faced photographs,
plaques written especially by historians of note
ensuring our culture is presented right –
preserved for everyone.

A smorgasbord of Aboriginal culture here –
bits and pieces taken from all around the place
labeled, cornered, polished up in chic displays
complete with commentaries from settler experts
telling our history – carving out our space.
Crowds jostle by – stare through faces, stroll
by dioramas of traditional life – mourn our passing,
quietly lament the cultural loss of us urban mobs.

Nearby a café and bar offer reprieve from the journey
through Aboriginal Australia – foot-sore travelers take
a break from cultural saturation over an almond
latte or a crisp, light white – hot chocolate for the kids.

In the gift store an eye-assaulting array – silk scarves,
desert prints, glossy books, tea towels, posters, jewelry,
tie pins, postcards – lots of dollars passed across the counter.
A tour group gathers – their guide assures them –
The finest display of Aboriginal culture in the nation!
All here under this roof – just for you!

Through a plate glass window, on the other side
of the lake, a different scene is framed. 
Out on the lawns opposite Old Parliament House
red, black and yellow flags fly – tents ripple
Koori kids kick a football around – a table is
set up – barbeques sizzle – cars roll in –
families pile out. A hat passed around
for the cost of the feed jingles with loose change.

Big mob gathers – banner says: WE ARE STILL HERE!
Embassy fire glows – Elder stands to speak – We are still here!
Always was! Always will be! Still here for us! Mob cheers,
breeze picks up – willy-willy twirls laughter across the lake –
dances a whirlwind of life through the still museum.

Go to Jeanine Leane's profile to read more poems