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A Sense of Belonging May Emerge from Connections to People and Places

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  • Category: Family

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Belonging to people or place is a fundamental human need. An individual’s sense of belonging can be enriched or hindered through disconnection and displacement. Three texts which illustrate the complexities of belonging, are the selected poems Feliks Skrzynecki and 10 Mary Street by Peter Skrzynecki, Phillip Noyce’s film Rabbit Proof Fence, and a vastly different film Into the Wild by Sean Penn.

Feliks Skrzynecki
A sense of belonging to one’s family and place is crucial to one’s understanding of self. The poem reveals Peter’s disjointed relationship with his Polish culture and his father, Feliks. The growing sense of separation between the persona and his father is evident in the metaphor “watched the pegging my tents/ Further and further south of Hadrian’s wall”, which implies their emotional distancing as the persona moves towards Australianness. Peter feels the lack of affinity to his cultural heritage, which is evident in “his polish friends/ Always shook hands too violently/ I thought…Feliks Skyzynecki” and even “forgot his first polish word”.

***Conversely a sense of belonging is seen in Peter’s father, Feliks. Although he is displaced from Poland, he is able to renew his connection with the soil. The simile “loved his garden like an only child” shows the depth of his belonging to the soil. This poem confirms belonging to place sometimes requires adjustment.

10 Mary Street
***Belonging to place offers security and helps in shaping our identity. The poem 10 Mary Street highlights belonging to place as transient. Skrzynecki depicts the action of locking the house as a ritual or daily routine. This is evident in “shut the houses like a well oiled lock/hid the key/ under a rusty bucket”. The imagery implies the sense of safety and security and through the simile of “like a well-oiled lock”,**…… cultural image where they ‘kept pre-war Europe alive, with photographs and letters’ as in the evocative image…**

The connection to the soil in the poem Feliks Skrzynecki is furthered in the vivid imagery of “My parents… grew potatoes/ and rows of sweet corn/ tended roses and camellias” whilst the nurturing and connection is underlined in the simile “like adopted children”. This recalls Feliks’ love in the simile and metaphor ‘loved his garden like an only child, we became children of the soil’ illustrates the unity of family and connection to the land as a shared experience. The sustained motif of the ‘key’ concludes the poem in ‘inheritors of a key’ *** which was exclusively that of 10 Mary Street where belonging to place and family was assures. The poem affirms belonging to place is ephemeral.

Into the Wild
Belonging to people and place can sometimes be a mistaken ideal. The film Into the Wild beings with a dysfunctional family where the protagonist Chris feels displaced and disconnected from his parents. He chooses not to belong to an American materialistic society instead he seeks out a relationship and belonging with the wilderness of Alaska. An extreme close shot is used where he is cutting up his student cards and credit cards. Along with rapid tempo sound effects, it creates intensity and emphasizes Chris’s denial of society*** Chris states to Ron “you’re wrong if you think the joy of life comes from human relationships”. This indicates the lack of understanding of real belonging.

Chris’s self imposed isolation in nature offers him a variety of experiences both positive and negative- he eventually recognizes “happiness is only real when shared.” In his final diary entry he reverts to his real name “Chris McCandles” acknowledging his connection to family and place. Penn intersperses his final moments with snapshots and rapid cuts of Chris’s memories and a blue sky symbolizes an eternity- his ultimate belonging.

Rabbit Proof Fence
**Rabbit Proof Fence is an emotive exploration of belonging and not belonging. It is the true story of Molly, Daisy and Gracie. They are a national symbol for the stolen generation- snatched away from their family in Jigalong and sent to Moore River settlement as part of Australia’s assimilation policy- a new and foreign belonging which denied their aboriginality. The docu-drama is framed by Molly’s voiceover and Aboriginal dialect and ends with actual footage of Molly and Daisy underlining the film’s authenticity.

Belonging to people and place was not a matter of individual choice for stolen generation. Noyce details the forced removal of the girls which builds to a dramatic climax- sound effects increase- screams, cries, drumbeats intersect with music. Riggs the constable is empowered by a high angel shot as he effectively destroys their belonging. A close up of the mothers hands pounding on the glass is a motif for connection being severed. The subjective camera in the back of the car allows us to view actions through the girls’ eyes when they are taken from Jigalong and their arrival at Moore River. This reinforces their disconnection. The montage beldn illustrates the depth of the girls loss of real belonging as images of Jigalong and the journey to Moore River are juxtaposed.

Belonging to family and place is a powerful incentive to regain what is lost. The escape of Molly, Daisy and Gracie along the rabbit proof fence, is the link to their real belonging. Symbolically the repetition shot of Molly’s spirit bird represents freedom, links to tribe and family and a motivating force for her determination. The music incorporates the sounds of the outback- insects and birds are synthesized so Molly’s connection to place and family are emphasized… The film underlines the importance of belonging to people and place as do the poems and into the wild.

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