Hold onto your seats, cause I’m about to throw down some real contextual shit onto this page. You know, recently I’ve been reading that play No Sugar written by that guy born in WA, Jack Davis. Well, as painfully boring as it was to read, I did some research into the guy and trust me when I say some of the discoveries are crazy. Read on people…
Okay so get a load of this; Northam, that place they talk about in the text, is a real place!!! Check this out. There’s this place called Australia, of which the author was born in (and the play is set in) the left part of it. Here’s a map I screenshotted from an internet atlas:
Okay I lied, this was stolen from another blog, written by an American, but it helps get my point across. So we’re gonna take a closer look at ‘the left. Okay so this time I promise, this one was taken from an official website called http://www.map-of-australia.com:
Ok so I lied again… I’m sorry… actually you know what? Fuck you! This is my blog post and I’ll use whatever images, of a place I know nothing about, that I like! So I googled “how to find Northam” and this image popped up. It’s got geographical markers and descriptions of wild life, what more do you want from a map?! Also I’m pretty sure that it’s still made by an American. Anyway… this proves that Northam is a real place.
So since I’m tossing facts at you left right and centre, here’s another one for ya… Those squawking things that they talk about in the play, the magpie thingies? Well guess what, you fucking guessed it, they’re real, and they’re a type of bird! Get a load of this image I obtained from national geographic:
HOLY CRAP LOOK HOW TERIFIED SHE IS, THAT BIRD LOOKS SO GOD DAMN SCARY WHAT KIND OF BIRD IS THAT? SOME KIND OF SATAN SPORN JESUS CHRIST HELP HER.
On that note, lets continue…
For you people doing some sort of literature course that came here for actual help and are still here at this point: I applaud you, but I also worry for your sanity. Don’t fret, the actual stuff is coming soon, I promise.
Okay so last impulsive fact, you have my word:
Mr A. O. Neville and Mr Neal are real people!!! That’s right, the dudes who were considered the “protectors” of aboriginals but just screwed them over most of the time, were real. But hold up, it doesn’t end there. When Jack Davis was 14, he left school and Mr Neville offered to teach him and his brother some farming. Seems like a nice gesture, right?
They hardly got paid and were taught barely anything about actual farming, it was practically slave labour. And check this out, the place where Jack and his brother did this ‘farming’ was a place called the Moore River Native Settlement. That’s right, Moore river, the exact same place where the Millimurra-Munday family were sent in the play that he wrote. Seems to me like Mr Davis here had some exterior motives to write this play, and this is what I like to call CONTEXT.
Historical context has a huge influence over the writing of text, personal experiences and history help inspire writers to produce texts. This is totally clear in Jack Davis’ text, most of the stuff that happens in the play actually happened either in history or directly to Jack himself.
I can go deeper, stay with me people, it only gets interesting from here.
In one of his biographies I read, it said that Jack recalled station owners praying on young girls that worked in the Moore River settlement, who used to come back pregnant after working there. Now wait, wasn’t that referenced in the No Sugar play? You’re god damn right it was. On page 56-57, the character Mary says:
“My friend went last Christmas and then she came back boodjarri [pregnant]. She reckons the boss’s sons used to belt her up and, you know, force her. Then they kicked her out.”
Here Mary is talking about her friend that went to one of the settlements and came back pregnant, after being raped by the station owner’s sons. Jack also recalls that the children became property of the state and some were even disposed of in some pine plantation. I kid you not, the next sentence of this quote goes like this;
“And when she had that baby them trackers choked it dead and buried it in the pine plantation”
The pine plantation is meant to be a symbol of death as a graveyard and represents fear. I mean there’s probably hundreds of dead kids in that pine plantation alone and if that doesn’t send shivers down your spine I would be worried.
Woah wait a second… Symbols and Context working together. Jack Davis is a pretty smart guy, writing all this stuff in his text to produce a sympathetic reader response, wow. EMOTION am I right?
Jack’s history and this play are becoming more relatable by the second.
So, there’s a thing some people like to call foreshadowing, which basically is an indication of a future event without it happening yet. The motif of Genocide is touched on a few times in the play. For example, good old Jimmy cuts himself with an axe on page 10:
“He nicks his finger with the axe and watches the blood drip to the ground”
Basically, the fact that his blood drips down to the ground is a symbol representing the genocide of Aboriginal people. The axe is a symbol then of the white Australian culture, who are represented as carrying out the genocide.
So, remember that thing I talked about earlier… Foreshadowing? Well, I just foreshadowed the fact that I was gonna be talking about foreshadowing. Ha! Take that! Okay so the whole genocide thing is brought up again later in the text by a character named Billy.
Billy is a black tracker/policeman in the play with very broken English and speaks with a lot of Noongar words throughout his speech. Billy himself is a symbol of attempted assimilation where he’s pretty much stuck in the middle between white culture and Indigenous culture. On page 62, Billy provides his account of an event that occurred in his home town of Oombulgarri:
“I bin stop Liveringa station and my brother, he bin run from Oombulgarri … He bin tell me ‘bout them gudeeah [white people] … this one gudeeah Midja George, he was ridin’ … He bin flog ‘em, flog ‘em, till that gudeeah he get tired … that old man, he was bleedin’, bleedin’ from the eyes”
This quote is only an outtake from Billy’s entire speech. Amongst the poor spoken English (which is written like it would sound by the way) you may not notice but Billy here is talking about a massacre. Okay well he’s not talking about the massacre directly but he is alluding to it. Billy was from Oombulgarri and speaks of his friend’s recollection of events. To summarise, a white man comes on a horse, finds an indigenous man, whips him until he gets tired, the man bleeds (a lot), the white man rides away on his horse and is killed by another indigenous man’s spear as he leaves. Basically, this entire quote is a Synecdoche for a real-life event… The Forrest River massacre, also known as the Oombulgarri massacre. There’s that motif of genocide again!
The Oombulgarri massacre, was a massacre of Indigenous Australian people by some cops after they killed Fred Hay, a farmer. It happened it the Kimberley region of Western Australia in 1926, was investigated in 1927 and determined that 11 people had been killed. Although Billy doesn’t talk about the rest of the massacre, he touches on it.
Jack Davis, back at it again with the historical accuracy.
So, to conclude this informative post I wrote for you guys;
No Sugar is a play written by Jack Davis who was born in WA. Jack’s life revolved heavily around the actual topic talked about in the play. He was recruited by the so-called protector, Mr A. O. Neville, treated poorly at the Moore River Settlement, which was where the play was primarily set. Jack uses the character Mary to convey his recollection of events about impregnating women in the settlements and killing their children (which actually happened!). Symbols are also used in the text such as Jimmy and the axe and also the pine plantation. Jack also uses the character Billy (an indigenous tracker/policeman) to convey the events of the Oombulgarri massacre, which was a killing of 11 indigenous people. This also works with the repeated motif of genocide throughout the play.
Hope you guys enjoyed my blog post and weren’t too shocked by the amount of contextual shit I could fit into one post. Until next time people.