An individual’s interaction with others and the world around them can enrich or limit their experience to belonging
An individual’s interaction with others and the world around them can enrich or limit their experience to belonging. Meaningless connections to people and to the world can have a limiting affect on an individual’s ability to belong. This is true to Peter Skrzynecki’s Immigrant Chronicle, specifically “Ancestors”, “Post Card” and “In the Folk Museum” as well as the painting The Ancestors by Marietjie Henning, whereby limiting experiences from the interaction of others has reaffirmed the loss of belonging through detailed descriptions of isolation, confusion and the depravation of identity.
Skrzynecki strongly depicts a feeling of disillusionment and not belonging in the poem “Ancestors”. The strong imageric description of the “bearded, faceless men/Standing shoulder to shoulder” evokes a distressing and enigmatic atmosphere that serves to highlight the broken connection between the persona and his ancestral heritage. It is this overriding feeling that has in fact limited in a great sense, the persona’s experiences to belonging.
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Furthermore, this lack of meaningful connections is reinforced by the puzzlement in the rhetorical question “To what star/Do their footprints lead? ” that reveals how he has a limited sense of belonging due to the uncertainty of the past. In addition, the ambiguity of “the wind tastes of blood” emphasises and signifies the resonating impression of his ancestral experiences, only further highlighting how the persona is unable to know where he belongs from his questioning of the relationship to the past, to others and the world around him.
Similarly with “In the Folk Museum”, the persona experiences his dismay at not being able to have meaningful connections with others and the world around him, in this case, the rich cultural heritage of Australian folk. The setting is established through “A darkness in the room”, portraying the museum to be a cold and dark place deprived of belonging and warmth. It signifies the poet’s feelings of not belonging to the Australian culture. The darkness permeates the silent place, acting symbolically for his isolation in the museum.
It is this lack of interaction and meaningful connections, which brings about his lack of belonging. He is unable to be enriched as he is unable to understand the items in the folk museum “I look at words”, significantly highlighting and heightening how he does not know what they are. Furthermore, the persona’s only interaction with a person in the folk museum is described through the simile “cold as water to touch”, symbolically representing the cold and unwelcoming atmosphere of the museum.
This description of the caretaker coupled with the use of a personal pronoun to exclude the persona in “They sing to Christ”, reinforces how it is the persona’s interaction with people or lack of it that has limited his sense of belonging due to the lack of meaningful connections being forged on his own accord. Similarly, the employment of personification serves to highlight the sense of urgency for Skrzynecki to leave the disconnected interactions of the folk museum, “the wind taps hurriedly” as he is unable to gain a sense of connectivity and thusly a sense of belonging.
Focusing on the folk museum is used symbolically for the representation of Skrzynecki’s wider sense of not belonging to the Australian culture that he had adopted to his paradigm of reference as a young Polish migrant. “Post Card” acts in a symbolic relationship with “In the Folk Museum”, highlighting how his interactions with the world has lead to him being caught in the nether region of both Polish and Australian cultures.
“Post Card” explores his interactions with the world around him in an almost painful manner, “What is my choice to be? ” the rhetorical question stressing his inner conflict that is limiting his experience to belonging. Simiarly the use of repetition “I never knew you/Let me be” reveals the complex nature to his limited sense of belonging. The persona is frustruated by receiving the post card, feeling segregated from his family due to a lack of deep and meaningful interactions with Poland.
This is further exemplified in the flat and unemotional descriptions of the post card “Red buses on a bridge/Emerging from a corner” emphasising his lack of meaningful connections to the post card and Poland. The enigmatic parting image of the lone tree “A lone tree/Whispers:/“We will meet/Before you die” suggest ambiguity over the persona’s future, perhaps an inclination towards greater and meaningful connections to people and the world around the persona, suggestive of a chance at enriched belonging in the future.
The choice of using the world “Haunts me” is reflective of how the post card has limited his sense of belonging due to being caught in the crossroads of both the Polish and Australian heritage. In a contrasting manner to “Ancestors”, The Ancestors by Marietjie Henning, an art masterpiece, highlights belonging to an ancestral heritage can enrich an individual’s sense of belonging. This is shown through the use of similar vibrant colours for the clothing of the figures depicted in the artwork.
A sense of belonging suggesting kinship and unity is depicted by the consistency of body shape, as they all dress with similar headpieces and jewellery. The vector lines draw the viewer’s attention to how the ancestors in the painting are clustered together, showing a sense of togetherness. The contrast of the dark background to the ancestors suggests strength. It is the similarities in appearance that reveal the connectedness of the ancestors and the physical sense of belonging.
It shows how one ancestor’s interactions with the others around them is able to enrich their sense of belonging. The ability of an individual to experience meaningful connections is able to enrich their sense of identity and belonging, being applicable to the painting The Ancestors by Marietjie Henning. In comparison to this painting, Skrzynecki’s poems, “Ancestors”, “Post Card” and “In the Folk Musem” show how it was Skrzynecki’s lack of interaction with the people and world around him that has indeed limited his sense of belonging from having meaningless connections.