Tension of ‘Two Worlds’: Tradition and Modernity

Vivienne Rontziokos


The polarity between the disparate spheres of Western modernity and Aboriginal tradition has ultimately prevented the possibility of an Indigenous modernity as Eurocentric and colonial conceptions of progress are not seen to correlate with Aboriginal culture, society and traditions.  This chapter extrapolates that an Indigenous modernity is unfeasible through the exploration of the dichotomous relationship between the traditional and the modern. The Eurocentric constructions of contemporaneity and indigeneity as binary opposites is exemplified within Craig Ruddy’s (2004) portrait, ‘David Gulpilil, Two Worlds’, which has been utilised within this paper as a contemporary example of the continued collision the two spheres.  This chapter illustrates the paradox of these opposing trajectories through an examination of the historical and contemporary constructions of Aboriginality as divergent from and oppositional to the modern. The reductionist classifications of homogeneity,  Otherness, primitivism and ahistoricism are also examined due to the way in which they have disallowed Indigenous peoples from accessing Enlightened notions of progress. The disparity between Aboriginal tradition and modernity is furthered by the processes of Western identity formation which saw the effective establishment of a dichotomous relationship between the ‘ancients’ and the ‘moderns’ so that the colonialists could distinguish their progression. The persistence of the polarised constructions of both the modern and traditional as mutually exclusive has essentially denied the possibility of an Indigenous modernity, ensuring that the ‘Two Worlds’ are not cohesively fused.

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