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No Sugar

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No Sugar shows us a range of responses adopted by Aboriginal people toward white authority. Discuss.­ The play No Sugar by Jack Davis which is set in the 1930’s, explores and evaluates the way Aborigines were treated unjustly and how they responded to this treatment. Jack Davis presents to us the Milimurra family who are essentially the main characters in the play. They are the minority group fighting against the discriminations laid upon on them by white authorities. Without a doubt, Davis positions his characters in a specific manner to challenge the audience and take them way out of their comfort zone which really makes them think about the reality of the way Aborigines were treated. Davis creates and positions his characters in ways which are constantly alert and under fire, and opposing the tyrannical white society. He does so to link the discriminatory and aloof attitudes of the main white beliefs towards, discrimination and adjustment – for instance.

Racism and discrimination were both major worries concerning Aboriginals throughout the Great Depression. Jimmy Munday is the major protagonist of the play. He is the son of the wise and knowledgeable Gran Munday. As an indigenous Nyoongah man in his forties, he represents the link between the traditional culture and a straightforward involvement. He is seen as one of those outspoken characters in No Sugar which is portrayed as persistently rebelling the discriminatory and bigoted attitude towards the Aboriginals. Racial discrimination is clearly revealed in the White society when they plan to relocate the Government Well Aboriginals, solely because the town wants to be devoid of all things related to Aboriginals. Jimmy persistently continues to treat the White society with hatred even though he realises that he is relatively powerless.

He continues to voice the discrimination he feels, ‘You reckon blackfellas are bloody mugs. Whole town knows why we’re goin. Coz Wetjalas in this town don’t want us ere, don’t want our kids at the school, with their kids, and old Jimmy Mitchells tight coz they reckon Bert Awke’s gonna give him a hidin’ in the election.’ Having Jimmy positioned in such a way and portraying his feelings illustrates the hatred towards Aboriginals throughout white society. The most complex character in the play is Billy Kimberly. He has lost his beloved family and sense of identity. Being the last of his tribe and people, Billy is caught between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous worlds and lacks a true sense of identity. He is an example of the inner conflict many Aboriginals felt.

At the beginning of the play, he conducts himself like a policeman and makes himself in control of Joe and Mary, where he pursues them after they had ran away, and when he whips David who skips Sunday school. Towards the end of the play, we see a third character of Billy. At the corroboree he tells the story of the 1926 Oombulgarri massacre, where he tells everyone that he is now a man without a people or a place, a family or a home. So, when he offers his whip to Joe at the end of the play (12) he is doing more than betraying Superintendent Neal and more than helping the Millimurra family. His compassion is disturbed by Mr. Neal calling him and he hurries off saying “coming boss”. This quite obviously shows the control Whites have over Aboriginals which is one of the main impressions that Davis attempts to bring out in the play.

Billy constantly seems like he is willing to please everyone and does not quite know or understands his position and where he fits in (with aboriginals or whites). Because of the labels he is given (black crow or traitor), he works for the whites against the aboriginals. The Aboriginal culture in No Sugar show a persistent attitude in trying to challenge dominant white beliefs, though they do not succeed. The Aboriginal Culture was constantly fighting not to be brought down, and the white authorities knew that ‘adjustment’ was a major historical practice in attempt to abolish Aboriginal Culture. The fighting and not-backing-down concept is distinctly seen in Gran Munday, the matriarch and cornerstone of her family, in contrast to Billy Kimberly.

She refuses to adapt into an obedient Indigenous identity determined by white people. She looks after her family and protects them, providing them with a sense of cultural and practical knowledge. Through her use of her own ‘Nyoongah’ language, Davis is able to focus reader attention on the cultural characteristics of Aboriginal people by expressing her demands to be heard. Gran rejects white authorities by not agreeing to their dominant Western Cultural ways. In addition, this is clearly showcased to the audience when Gran speaks in her Nyoongah language ‘Warrah, guny, tjeinu minditj, and I get no gnummari.’ This quote confirms how white authorities have been incapable of destroying her aboriginality. Throughout No Sugar, Gran is represented as an Aboriginal that possesses tradition Aboriginal qualities, such as her skilled knowledge of bush alternatives.

For example, when Neville whips Mary, Gran comes to the rescue, ‘No mine, no mine put this jeerung nreear on your back, fix you up quick and make you better.’ This furthermore confirms the way Gran is portrayed as a traditional Aboriginal woman with her proud culture strongly unbroken. In conclusion, Jack Davis’ play No Sugar illustrates and brings forward characters that show the audience how certain language and discourses of cruelty can be oppressed in order to create Aboriginal subjectivity. Although No Sugar shows people and a family who battle to survive all the trials to which they are subjected, it is the ability of Davis using appropriate language, cultural and general conventions in a manner which object the meaning of “we”, the Australian colonisers as well as the facilitation of black cohesion.

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