The Cherry Pickers by Kevin Gilbert is repeatedly outlined as a ground-breaking event as it was the first play written by an Indigenous artist (Chakraborty 68). At the moment of the initially rehearsed interpretation of The Cherry Pickers, Gilbert was named the first Indigenous dramatist to have his play performed. Gilbert’s plays surely are the first drama scripts by an Indigenous Australian to be played in the Euro-Australian dramatic setting.
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Consistent with one story, The Cherry Pickers was trafficked out of prison on the pieces of toilet paper. Gilbert defined the drama as a story about seasonal workers that emphasized spiritual exploration and damage, as the Indigenous people forced to become unnatural migrants while being dissocialized (Gilbert 22). The author chose this particular artifact for the reason that, taking into account the experiences of wandering countryside workers, the drama overviews the subjects of family, religiousness, and denial.
The description syndicates creation legends, ancestral rituals, political rhetoric, dirty puns, songs, and an incessant act of waiting (Das 3). The waiting is the detail that should be regarded as the central element of the play. Gilbert builds The Cherry Pickers around a company of Aboriginal Australians destined to stroll through their own land in search for whatever work they can get. They set up a camp and then narrate stories, sing melodies, and distract the audience for the play’s length while they are waiting for the commencement of the cherry-picking season.
Numerous facts may be recognized if we place the play in its wider historical context. Through its comicality, The Cherry Pickers is viciously frank about alcoholism, ferocity, and the anxiety that can lead to ethnic and moral roadblocks (Das 3). The Cherry Pickers became the first play that was written by an Aboriginal person using the standard English language. Gilbert’s artifact became a major step in creating communicational bonds between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.
The play helps the reader get an insight into the natural life of people whose private life had been protected from white folks. The drama was nominated for several prestigious awards and was highly praised (Wheeler 125). What is also important, the text of the play was not available until the end of the 1980s when a reviewed version was published, coinciding with the growing dissents by Aboriginal Australians contrary to the celebrations of European Annexation Anniversary (Chakraborty 64).
This Indigenous play exposes the route of denial, powerlessness, subservience, and elementary human deprivation. The Cherry Pickers is instilled with a sense of delicate satire no less comforted by the fact that it took almost twenty years for The Cherry Pickers to be printed in Australia. On a bigger scale, the play presents a mixture of expectation, ambition, remembrance, scarcity, and demise of the Indigenous habits of living, not moderated by the infrequent wittiness and comedy.
The cherry-picking time of the year symbolically stands for pleasure and gratification relating to the productivity of both nature and humankind. With the end of the cold season and the slow rise of the spring, people got out from the cold to collect their few scanty goods to get themselves prepared for the walk (Gilbert 29). The Indigenous are chattering among themselves just to return sporadically to the leitmotif of the old days and the joy associated with the presence of Johnollo, a true idol to the kids and an upright representation of well-being, vigor, festivity, and fruitfulness. The depiction of confused and indolent womanhood sends the readers back to the period of meaning and awareness that was stolen by the unsympathetic behavior of the white colonists (Eckersley 62).
Regarding Indigenous resistance and revival, The Cherry Pickers is a play that, at the same time rejoices the outdated habits of Indigenous living and forefronts the complications of upholding a traditional way of living in the modern social order. The objection in contrast to the theory of the conservation of Indigenous ethos by returning to the outmoded lifestyle expressively designates a transformation in the attitude of the Indigenous young people who had already understood that this kind of irrational and outdated way of living might not be potential enough (Das 6). A prolific affiliation between the Indigenous and the whites can only be possible when both camps will reciprocally reveal and admire each other’s uniqueness and individuality without bias and discrimination.
Thus, The Cherry Pickers highlights the theme of Indigeneity mentioning the contradictions of appreciating the pure essence of one’s own Indigenous past in the modern social order (Wheeler 125). The Cherry Pickers brings up the issue of the settler’s carelessness that led to the children’s death. The lifeless parrot that one of the Indigenous holds in his arms signifies the death of the internal essence that categorized the Indigenous lifestyle (Gilbert 36).
Yet again, the death of Johnollo and the longstanding cherry tree that was a symbol of prosperity, pushed the Indigenous into an endless state of hopelessness which is changed only at the very end of the drama where the Indigenous flag is hoisted in its habitual place and waves in the wind as a promise to Indigenous survival and existence (Casey 72). The Cherry Pickers, being the initial written Indigenous drama, has the intention of familiarizing the audience with the central issues of worried Aboriginality, their frustration and sorrow caused by the settlers, the uncultured rejection of Indigenous kids which led to their deaths, the pessimism that saturates the cognizance of the elders and their dependence on alcohol to emotionally ease their loss and the errands that are assigned to the Indigenous young people (Wheeler 125).
In The Cherry Pickers shows an understanding of Aboriginality founded on empathy, respect for the divine past, and the set-up of a code of hopefulness. The Indigenous strive to fly free just like the rosellas around them. Their irregular obedience allows the new peer group of Indigenous to build up a new community that is not created by an essentialized assumption of Aboriginality, but in agreement with the different requirements and propagations of social, ethnic, historical, and rational interests.
The Cherry Pickers by Kevin Gilbert is consistent and provides the reader with a perfect depiction of Indigenous revival on the edge of oppression and injustice. Gilbert masterfully combines the dramatic themes with an ironic reflection of societal problems of the Aboriginal. The audience will be distracted by the endless stream of allegories, and a breathtaking sense of struggle and despair which saturates every scene of the drama, and, in the end, turns into the declaration of victory over the past. Indeed, this literary work has become the symbol of the fight for acceptance, freedom, and recognition.
Casey, Maryrose. “The Great Australian Silence: Aboriginal Theatre and Human Rights.” Theatre and Human Rights after 1945 (2015): 74-89. Web.
Chakraborty, Sibendu. “De-Essentialising Indigeneity: Locating Hybridity in Variously Indigenous Performative Texts.” Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities 6.3 (2014): 62-72. Web.
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Das, Prasenjit. “‘The Black Performance’: Traditional and Contemporary Practices of Australian Aboriginal Drama.” The Criterion 12 (2013): 1-6. Web.
Eckersley, Mark. Australian Indigenous Drama. Sydney: Tasman, 2012. Print.
Gilbert, Kevin. The Cherry Pickers. Canberra: Burrambinga, 1988. Print.
Wheeler, Belinda. A Companion to Australian Aboriginal Literature. Rochester: Camden House, 2013. Print.