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October 16, 2021

Here & Now #98: Strange Fruit

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Here & Now 98 picS Sorrensen

Nimbin. Saturday, 9.05pm.

Humans are capable of incredible things.

We can invent a little black box that sits on the television and allows you to download the latest series of My Kitchen Rules while viewing (and recording) the entire series of Game of Thrones. At the same time! OMG.

We can learn the delicate art of clutch-throttle synchronisation and barrel down crowded strips of bitumen, avoiding pedestrians (most of the time) and oncoming Nissan X-trails filled with children, while organising coffee with the girls on the hands-free. Cool.

Alternatively, we have now created a driverless car that can take you to the coffee shop, while texting the girls, relying not on clutch-throttle synchronisation but on GPS, SMS and BP. What a world.

But more importantly, humans can make music – with our voices and with our bodies. (Kepler, an astronomer of the 17th century, understood that the Earth had a soul. Its rotation and revolution created a harmony, he reckoned. ‘Music of the spheres,’ he wrote. In short, the Earth sings.)

We can dance to that music to tell tales, titillate or torture. We can make poetry where the words are the singers and dancers. With earth music in our ears, we can do double somersaults with half-pike and land on our feet. Ta da!

And we can climb a rope. (Well, some can. I can’t.)

The planet is about 4.5 billion years old. It is an evolving being. It evolved a body so it can grow. That breathing body evolved humans to be a nervous system, to spread around the planet connecting its bits, to make it conscious. (Work in progress.)

The woman sits on stage wearing a dress, and looks at the audience with a sad, silly smile. The end of the rope is in her mouth. Actually, it’s not called a rope; its a corde lisse (‘smooth rope’ in French).

She applies make-up haphazardly: eyebrow pencil like a clown’s, lipstick like a drunk’s.

Music floods Nimbin Town Hall. The song is Strange Fruit, an awful but beautiful song about the lynching of black Americans in the early part of last century. It was first recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939, but I think this version is by Nina Simone.

The woman climbs the rope (no longer in her mouth), shedding her dress as she ascends. She is effortless, rising as if the gravitas of the music has suspended gravity. She hangs upside down, a strange fruit, and her dress drops to the stage like its discarded skin.

Humans are capable of incredible things.

My little phone can take a photo of the rope woman and send it instantly to my shack under the cliffs. There, it’s done. Amazing.

Humans can hang other humans from trees because they have a different skin colour. Or behead them because they have a different religion. Or incarcerate them because they have a different mode of asylum transport. Or have sex with them because they’re kids. Incredible.

I suppose that evolution is a hit and miss affair, with every dead end (like racist harassment, fossil fuels, religion and corporate pollution) a pointer to a better path.

Here and now in this old hall in Nimbin, I see the very best of evolution. I’m not hearing the din of technological distraction, the creak of political fabrication, or the silence of hopelessness. I’m hearing the evolving planet sing. It sings to me in a language of art. It sings: ‘Humans are capable of incredible things.’

With an open dive to flag and then lean out, the woman descends, and the Blue Moon Cabaret audience claps.

Simone’s Strange Fruit finishes… but the singing is getting louder and louder.

 


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