The Narrative

Below is the full narrative that people read when interacting with the event: 

Kartogrifa In-Flux – a story of a ‘first fleet’ cartographer

This is an interactive event. Please read, and reflect on the text and visual story. Take your time.

Follow either path, then start again and follow the other. Or, follow both at once.

Move and play with the relationships between the land, human, and the artificial. Explore options. The symbols beside the narrative will guide you to the corresponding area of the visual storytelling board.

As you traverse with the Kartogrifa In-Flux, feel the push-and-pull, the opening and closing, the transformation of difference into value, the rejection of those values as the frontier sway from status quo to the de-centred.

Recognise our options, as did the Kartogrifa In-Flux, to value more than just the one knowledge of space, time and ethics that came with the boats in 1788.

The Journey Starts Here

The Governor’s moment

It is 1788. Governor Phillip and the ‘first fleet’ of eleven ships are only hours away from arriving at Sydney Cove. As the Governor catches sight of the pristine “park-like” environment upon which he is to set foot, he finds a moment to reminisce about the putrid London streets he left behind.

“Could there be another way? With so much freedom from politics and space to move, what can we learn, for whom, and what for, once stepping foot onto this soil?”

It was a light bulb moment that was to change the course of Australian history, though little did he know at the time that a man, a Kartogrifa In-Flux, was to translate learning into value, into another way of seeing the world.

The path from England is ruptured by the wide Atlantic. The open space breathes with wide lungs.

Narrative A: Values transformed 

The Governor’s plan backfires

On the Governor’s first day in this new land he declared that the best way for the new settlement to learn about land management was to “steal” the information from the Aboriginal people. By sending cartographers on walking expeditions with them, he intended to have them bring back the knowledge for the benefit of the new settlement. The plan backfired.

It became evident on the cartographers’ expeditions that the only way the Aboriginal tribes had succeeded in living with and maintaining the environment was through a complex system whereby they were custodians of the land. Over a period of weeks the cartographers, along with their traveling wives and children, had come to value this Indigenous knowledge and were quick to report back that it was futile to simply learn mapping from the local tribes.

Upon returning to civilised Sydney Cove, all returned back to their western modes of habitation, all except one. A Kartogrifa In-Flux refused to return. He was transfixed by the value he had witnessed, that in Aboriginal culture land and human  were in fact deeply interconnected.

With his pregnant wife, he walked on with the tribe.

The path cannot be walked at arms length, separated from the ‘other’. The points converge, and one man takes a transcendental leap.

Kartogrifa’s mind pushes and pulls

For months, a Kartogrifa In-Flux and his pregnant wife walk, and settle in a place, then walk, and settle in another place with the Aboriginal tribe. Their movements within the country are guided by the tribe’s sharp observational abilities in reading signs and patterns of the land. Living in simple dwellings often assembled and disassembled in place, the guests remained free of contact from their fellow boat arrivals.

By the fire conversations with the tribe remained free of the shackles of imposing western science and philosophy. The guest family could feel their minds pushing and pulling between western linear knowledge that seemed separated from land, and Indigenous knowledge that seemed to ebb and flow within the land.

The family witness Bora Ring ceremonies, Totem initiations, sacred burials, spirit men, land management through fire, language, song and dance, they see the Dreaming. The inconceivable differences between the west and the ‘other’, differences he had been taught to fear, and eliminate, soon begin to be translated into values, ethics for a new way of seeing of the world. A new reality.

The path moves, it ebbs and flows. The freedom, the openness, and the adaptability are the principles one man yearns.

Commonality in different realities

The Kartogrifa’s reality: the world he saw when stepping off the boat, was one of crude power and domination. Now he sees a different world. He questions the change. He sees that there are many realities. He wonders of the extraordinary discoveries that alternative realities must make and the ability for biological diversity to flourish only in cultural diversity.

His wife is now 8 months pregnant and it has been many full moons since feeling the familiarity of other Whites. The winter chill draws near. The Aunties in the tribe comfort the ailing wife, offering kangaroo skins for warmth and remaining by her side. Meanwhile the Kartogrifa, witnessing the common human compassion of the Aunties for his struggling wife, is drawn into contemplation about his unique position to take a path leading to a very different future. He is understanding his options. What is there to be learned and what should be un-learned?

The paths converge. There are commonalities in difference. The options become apparent.

Day of endings and beginnings

The Kartogrifa feels himself shifting away from his racist learned notions of these people only belonging in history, their practices only belonging in a primitive time. Time, he sees, has its own beat in this rich and strong tribe. A beat connected to custodianship of land. Care of land as an unquestioned sediment, a part of being, where actions begin.

Nine months have passed and on a clear blue winters day. The horror begins. The wife sacrifices her last breathe to push her newborn into the world. The baby cries, the wife lay lifeless. A Kartogrifa In-Flux lay in a dialectic of elation and despair.

The Uncles take him away, walkabout for a day. The Aunties clean up the baby and provide breast for her feed. The Aunties, as with all newborns of the tribe, bestow her a totem, custodianship of the openness in the grasses and plains.

A Kartogrifa In-Flux returns from walkabout, holds his newborn and acknowledges the responsibility and obligation his newborn now has to take care of the land. He becomes connected through kinship to land. He vows to uphold his daughter’s custodianship.

The path proceeds following the custodianship of land. Options: the shared spirit in the grassy plains; or the soil in it to extract and deplete.

Pollination of alternative ethics

The Governor, hearing of the Kartogrifa’s unfortunate news (but not knowing of his mind in-flux), sends 4 males and 4 females convicts out to join the Kartogrifa’s expedition. The Kartogrifa is thankful for the hands and puts them to good use. He also insists they adhere to respect and two-way dialogue with the tribe.

Many more months pass by and the convicts, as did the Kartogrifa family, learn to value another way of seeing the world. Upon the end of their term of incarceration, the Kartogrifa provides them with two options. Return to Sydney Cove, or collaborate with an adjacent tribe, on their terms and conditions of dwelling in that country. All the convicts decide to join the collaboration.

Years pass by and the families, now multiplying, learn to look after country, make decisions through consensus and find integrity in the spirit of the land. They move with seasons and flow with the food stocks of the land.  Spatial structures, pollinated with select western construction principles and informed by Indigenous design principles are semi-permanent, and adaptable to climatic conditions.

Children are given custodial totems by the Elders. It is a unique reality, vastly different from adjacent settlements. Money becomes a mere communal resource much the same as food and shelter, made possible by the fact there is no need to drove cattle or harvest crops for monetary gain. The settlement is self-sufficient.

The path multiplies, underpinned by terms and qualities of existence, founded in connection to land as a moral entity.

Two-way dialogue and debate

Values spread to the borders of country and adjacent white pioneers are absorbed by the Kartogrifas’ alternative ethics he has found in the Indigenous Knowledge. These values have now ruptured and false assumptions the whites had that they owned the land. It is the accepted norm in the pocket of settlements that the Aboriginal custodians of that country were only only ever accepting minimal occupation of spaces based on their terms. It was starkly evident work was less arduous, and contribution to wider colonial expansion and economic growth on the frontier were void.

The Governor received word of this rogue cluster of settlements and pressure was mounted to adhere to the drafted laws that came with the boats. The Kartogrifa and his alliances repeatedly refused, arguing that legislation, amendments or repeals against land ownership were impossible, as there were already laws, or custodial ethics, in place that transcend the bounds of English law.

The forces trying to drive the Indigenous people past their capacity to adapt to were fiercely repelled by the rogue settlements. Nationwide, debate was sparked about the legitimacy of the rogue settlements. There was growing support, and critique, for the border thinking. The year is 1900 and due to one man, A Kartogrifa In-Flux, the questions of Federation, and indeed any notion of English sovereignty and the nationhood, became a fierce debate that was to change the metaphysical landscape of Australia forevermore.

The path converges with the status quo, the western centre thinking that came with the boats. Questions of underpinning value and ethics are explored.

Narrative B: Values invisible 


The Governors’ plan backfires

On the Governor’s first day in this new land he declared that the best way for the new settlement to learn about land management of the country was to turn to Botanists manuals, such as those written by Sir Joseph Banks, once he had returned to England after the 1770 Cook voyage. The plan backfired.

It became evident on the cartographers’ solo expeditions that the only way to manage the land was to clear vast tracts for grazing and leave the remaining to wilderness. Their modes of habitation instantly pillaged and ruptured the space surrounding Sydney Cove. Both the biosphere (the land) and ethnosphere (the local culture or as they were coined ‘savages’) was dismissed as primitive and in need of domination.

The path cannot be walked at arms length. Knowledge dismissal becomes the demise of a vulnerable colony.

Cartographers’ control of reality

For months, Cartographers furnished maps of the land. Their movements within the country guided by their probes and devices. Living in simple campsites, the invaders often encountered the native population, trying to conciliate affections from a safe distance.

Campfire conversations with the white expedition filled their minds with aspirations of heroic pioneering and control over land in the face of such a harsh inhospitable environment.

The expedition often witnessed peculiar rituals of the native population. Practices inconceivable for the west to be civilised. These differences were translated into disadvantages in advancing modern civilisation. There was only one way of seeing the world, only one reality, and whatever the natives were doing did not fit.

The path is predetermined, room for options negated.

Cartographers’ pioneering drive

One of the Cartographers wives on the expedition was now 8 months pregnant and it has been many full moons since feeling the familiar security among the colony down in Sydney Cove. The winter chill draws near. The other wives in the expedition comfort the ailing wife, offering the coats off their own backs for warmth and remaining by her side.

Meanwhile, the cartographers contemplate returning back to Sydney Cove to receive assistance from the doctor. However, they find themselves in a very unique position to pioneer a path for a future akin to the wealthy upper class gentleman of the English countryside. They understand they only have one option. There is no question to ponder. They must find a suitable settlement plot where land can be cultivated and waterways redirected to suit their European system of knowledge. They hold strong and continue, advancing their expedition guided by their colonised minds.

The path avoids points of convergence at all costs

Day of endings and beginnings

The cartographers continually encounter native tribes but rely on their learned knowledge systems to dismiss these primitives as belonging in history, of no value to modern advancement. The beat of ecological philosophy intrinsic to the Aboriginal tribes is invisible.

Nine months arrive and on a clear blue winter’s day, the horror begins. The wife sacrifices her last breathe to push her newborn into the world. The baby cries, the wife lay lifeless. A cartographer lay in a dialectic of elation and despair. The other cartographers take him away for the day. The other wives clean up the baby and provide breast for her feed. The cartographer returns, holds his newborn and vows to conquer this land, mine for riches in the soil and rock and build an empire for his only child.

Meanwhile, 4 male and 4 women convicts are dispatched to a little known settlement far across the ridge.

The path searches for weakness in land to extract and deplete

One-way dialogue and debate

Years pass and the cartographers are each given plots of land for their rigorous work in plotting out the vacant land. Families multiply, and they learn to take control of the country. Decisions are made by the Governor, and integrity and spirit are found in the almighty God high in the sky.

They stay fixed, and the seasons batter their structures, ill suited to the harsh conditions of the unforgiving frontier. Children are taught the laws of western science and philosophy. Economic expansion through perpetual growth is the primary drive. The settlements are reliant on the market only and it’s showing.

Western values spread to all borders of the newly acquired land. These values concrete their assumptions that they now own the land. Work is hard, all in the name of colonial expansion and growth of the frontier. The governor stands proud of the achievements of the colonies as they integrate common English regulations and laws across the land. The forces trying to drive the Indigenous people past their capacity to adapt have succeeded.

Nationwide, the settlers resist any native resistance. The industrial revolution has brought technologies that make the settlers daily lives impossible to go without. It is time for debate about the drafting of lines that constitute land ownership between each colony.  The time when one may wake from a dream of alternate possibilities are long forgotten.

The year is 1900, and the details over which colony owns which portion become a fierce debate that was to change the metaphysical landscape of Australia forevermore.

Meanwhile little exposure is given to a small isolated settlement across the ridge advocating for inconceivable ethical change.

The path continues with the status quo, the western thinking that came with the boats. Questions of underpinning value and ethics are never explored.

Alternative histories are sediments for alternative futures

 Our journey starts here