The Unaustralian saudade

The spiritual belief required to traverse such
distances was based on unsustainable expectations. In 1420,
Prince Henry the Navigator was made grand master of the Order
of Christ, a company established to succeed the crusading order
of the Templars. Funds from the order financed his expeditions
and the first Portuguese navigators sailed under the Red Cross.
The Portuguese, on the other hand, located Prester John in
Ethiopia, where the Knights Templar had journeyed to find the
lost Ark of the Covenant. Portuguese campaigns in Angola and
the Congo were nominally aimed at meeting up with the holy empire
of the East.
For many years after that battle, there were various waves
of Sebastianismo, in which various impostors claimed to be the
king. As with modern Elvis Presley sightings, hopes were sustained
that the King, and with him Portugal’s lost glory, would
be restored.
… the dank, corrupted air
That festers in the marshes around there
Has made me food for fish here in the snarling,
Fierce seas that dark the Abyssinian shore,
Far from the happy homeland I adore.
The poets subsequently inspired by his work were called the
Sósino Generation. In modern times, this spirit has been
carried by the poet Fernando Pessoa and novelist Jose Saramago.
"It is not I who shall comment on the Text, but the Text
that shall comment on me. I will not say a word that is not
the Gospel’s own, because there is not a clause in it
that is not mine. I will echo its voices, and it will shout
out my silences. May it please God that men on earth might listen
to them, that they might not come to be heard in Heaven."
"Down the coast here, under a hopeless, black basaltic
cliff, is to be seen the wreck of a very, very old ship, now
covered with coral and seaweed. I waited down there for a spring
tide, to examine her, but could determine nothing, save that
she was very old; whether Dutch or Spanish I know not. You English
should never sneer at those two nations; they were before you
Despite the lack of hard evidence, the city of Warrnambool
has capitalised on the hypothetical Portuguese wreck. The first
major ‘re-discovery’ was a documentary made for
Channel 7 by the businessman adventurer Dick Smith.
In the episode ‘I Name Thee Bay of Pearls’, the
mayor, Bob Jolly, attempts to win tourists by manufacturing
a theme-park history, titled ‘Ye Olde Pearl Bay’.
Given the lack of any historic artefacts, the mayor discovers
that mystery can be gained by the mere possibility that an old
object belonged to the early explorers, such as the Portuguese.
He thus declares that a rusty car gasket may have been a Portuguese
cooking implement. It is the very uncertainty of the attribution,
rather than its Portuguese origin, which grants it mystique.

Hali with award-winning tea bag dress.
In Madeira, her father’s family had lived in a cave,
providing everything for themselves. They carried the same lifestyle
into the banana plantation where she grew up, and at which she
worked after school. ‘Every time you killed something,
you had to eat nose tip to tail, tip and everything in between.
Open the pot and you’d see it all, chicken, chook heads,
comb and beak. Just life.’
Some locals feared that Australians would bring a ‘Bali
culture’ with them, with liberal sexual that were offensive
to the conservative Catholic East Timorese. Australia’s
failure to stand up for the East Timorese on the world stage
is still remembered: ‘Australia is seen as a lap dog to
Asian dictatorships, the US and other dominant countries of
the west.’
Before the ballot, Nicholson made thirty-three hand-drawn
copies of the leaflet that Australians had dropped over East
Timor in 1944. The leaflet was an expression of solidarity and
encouragement from the Australians towards the East Timorese,
informing them of recent Japanese defeats and their own impending
liberation. The action is personal and wistful, referring back
to a time when Australian foreign policy was aligned with unambiguous
Ironically, the title ‘Unaustralian’ has since
become a rallying point of political action. Soon after Bracks’
statement, the demonstrators were joined by a figure playing
a mounted Ned Kelly, bearing the title ‘Unaustralian’.
Like the returned lost King, this symbol of Australia’s
rebellious spirit finds a new vocation in a contemporary context
of conformity and political impotence.
Baz Lurmann’s debut Strictly Ballroom (1992) pitted
passionate Latin culture against the rule-bound Anglo mentality.
The young competitor Scott Hastings brings authentic Latin techniques
into the closed circle of rigid Aussie dance codes. The film
reaches its delirious comic end with a mass of competitors frolicking
in Latin frenzy.
One officer wrote back to London saying that his spirits had
soared on reflecting that this flourishing and important colony
was originally settled and peopled on a plan exactly similar
to that of the present expedition. But Phillip would have none
of this: he was confident he would see the time when Botany
Bay would be of more use to England than as a drain for its
more degraded inhabitants.
But two centuries later, as Australia has developed into a
virtuous nation, there is a hint of yearning, a saudade, for
the passion and adventure of the Portuguese explorers. As encapsulated
in the classic song diptych of Peter Allen, ‘I still call
Australia home’ for stasis and comfort, but ‘I go
to Rio’ for engagement and life.

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