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Students to connect with aboriginal artists via video link (Released: 4/12/99)

by Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu, Office of University Communications

STORRS, Conn. -- Students in a social anthropology class at the University of Connecticut will be able to converse across thousands of miles and a vast cultural divide via a video link with a group of Australian aboriginal artists on Wednesday, April 14.

The connection will enable students to converse live with a group of Central Desert Aboriginal painters living and working in Yuendumu, a community 200 miles northwest of Alice Springs, in Australia's Northern Territory. The event will take place in Gentry Building Room 131, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

"The anthropology class attempts to show that common assumptions about culture must often be amended," says Francoise Dussart, associate professor of anthropology, who arranged the video link."I have tried to broaden notions of art and culture. What better way to continue this undertaking than by providing 250 UConn students a chance to engage in a dialogue with people who would otherwise remain so distant and exotic?"

Dussart, who worked with the Warlpiri people for 13 years and is fluent in their language, will provide simultaneous translation. "The link-up will show not only how the artists paint their mythical stories onto canvasses but explain why," she says. "I hope to demonstrate how these paintings are testimonies to a culture that is vibrant and alive."

The cross-cultural dialogue is possible because the Warlpiri also possess compressed video technology. Although extremely poor, the Warlpiri requested and obtained a large grant by the Australian government to enhance intercultural communication.