A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘new caledonia

[MUSIC] Five music links: music videos, Yes Yes Y’All, 1970s Britain, New Caledonia, immigration

  • Noisey interviews Ryann Donnelly on the importance of the music video as a sexually revolutionary art form.
  • NOW Toronto celebrates the tenth anniversary of queer Caribbean dance party Yes Yes Y’All.
  • JSTOR Daily looks at how, in 1970s Britain, pop music was often anything but apolitical.
  • The Conversation shared this article taking a look at the important role of protest music among the independence camp in New Caledonia.
  • At Inter Press Service, A.D. Mackenzie wrote about an interesting exhibit at the Musée de l’histoire de l’immigration in Paris on the contributions made by immigrants to popular music in Britain and France from the 1960s to the 1980s.

[ISL] Five islands links: Toronto Islands, South Georgia, Haida Gwaii, Guadeloupe, New Caledonia

  • The Toronto Islands are open for business this year, hopefully without any hitches. (Let there not be unexpected flooding.) Global News reports.
  • The sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia has been freed from rat infestations, helping native life recover. National Geographic reports.
  • Killing invasive deer on Haida Gwaii is the task of recruited sharpshooters from New Zealand. MacLean’s reports.
  • Controversy over a new museum to slavery on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe draws on all sorts of political and cultural and economic issues besetting the territory. The Atlantic reports.
  • The exact language of the question to be asked of voters in the New Caledonia referendum on independence, coming this year, is a critical question. The Lowy Institute examines the issue.

[LINK] On the Francophone Indonesians of New Caledonia

Someone linked to Pam Allen’s fascinating Inside Indonesia article takes a look at the remarkable story of the Indonesian minority in the French Melanesian island of New Caledonia.

Aged 65 and still working as an engineer in Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, Djintar Tambunan is a member of an unusual minority. He is one of very few Indonesians in New Caledonia who speak fluent Indonesian. His Javanese wife Soetina does not. Nor do his two adult children. Like most of their Indonesian friends, their preferred language is French.

Born in Belige, on the shores of Lake Toba, North Sumatra, in 1945, Tambunan (as he prefers to be called) moved to the Pacific Island of New Caledonia during the mining boom in 1970. He came to work for the big construction company Citra, and has remained there ever since. He describes himself as part of the ‘third wave’ of Indonesian emigrants.

Who, then, comprised the first and second ‘wave’ of emigrants, and what were they doing in New Caledonia? Djintar Tambunan’s story, and that of the 7000 or so other Indonesians currently living there, forms part of a relatively little-known chapter in the history of Indonesia. Like the history of the Javanese in Suriname in South America, and that of the Cape Malays in South Africa, it is an intriguing story of the tension that results when populations move, or are moved, to new surroundings.

That first wave of Javanese emigrants comprised 170 contract labourers, who arrived in Noumea in 1896. Forty-two years earlier, Napoleon III had established a penal colony in the French possession of New Caledonia. Most of the convicts transported there were political prisoners from the Paris Commune. In 1894, the French Governor of New Caledonia, Paul Feillet, abolished penal immigration and replaced prison labour with Asian immigrants, mainly from Japan, Java and Vietnam, who came to work in the mines and on the plantations.

Initially sent to work in agriculture, from 1899 the Javanese began working in the mining industry, which offered better pay but more difficult conditions. They were expected to work long hours with pick and shovel and to put up with demanding French employers. Once their contract term had ended, some returned to Java. But many remained in New Caledonia, a choice that robbed them of their right to repatriation. It was a choice that also brought with it the burden of paying the costs of finding new employment.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 10, 2015 at 11:46 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On the intelligent crows of Aesop’s Fables

The Aesop’s Fable of The Crow and the Pitcher was proven by science. In the paper “Using the Aesop’s Fable Paradigm to Investigate Causal Understanding of Water Displacement by New Caledonian Crows”, investigators determined that the famously intelligent New Caledonian crow can interrogate questions of volume as well as young humans.

Understanding causal regularities in the world is a key feature of human cognition. However, the extent to which non-human animals are capable of causal understanding is not well understood. Here, we used the Aesop’s fable paradigm – in which subjects drop stones into water to raise the water level and obtain an out of reach reward – to assess New Caledonian crows’ causal understanding of water displacement. We found that crows preferentially dropped stones into a water-filled tube instead of a sand-filled tube; they dropped sinking objects rather than floating objects; solid objects rather than hollow objects, and they dropped objects into a tube with a high water level rather than a low one. However, they failed two more challenging tasks which required them to attend to the width of the tube, and to counter-intuitive causal cues in a U-shaped apparatus. Our results indicate that New Caledonian crows possess a sophisticated, but incomplete, understanding of the causal properties of displacement, rivalling that of 5–7 year old children.

Virginia Morell interviewed one of these researchers, Sarah Jelbert, for National Geographic News. An excerpt:

How did you come up with your idea to give the Aesop’s Fable test to the crows?

Our study was based on the fantastic work of two other researchers, Christopher Bird and Nathan Emery. [They showed that rooks would use stones to raise the water level in a tube so that they could reach a worm.] Dropping stones into water isn’t something New Caledonian crows do in the wild; no animal does. But it is also a completely natural thing, and so is a fair test of animals’ cognition.

We trained six crows to drop small stones into tubes. And then we gave them different tests to see how much they understand or can learn about the cause and effect of water displacement. Would they understand that dropping stones into water in a tube [to get a piece of meat to float to the top] is different from dropping them into sand in a tube? Or that hollow objects have a different effect from solid ones?

They did very well at four of the six tests, where they were able to apply their natural understanding of cause and effect and the properties of objects. They understood that solid objects sink and hollow ones float, for instance, and that it doesn’t make any sense to drop stones into sand. But they were incredibly poor at the counterintuitive test, which involved a U-[shaped] tube; they had to infer that there was a connection between the two tubes, but none of them could do this.

And what do their successes and failures at these tests tell us about the cognitive abilities of New Caledonian crows?

We’re trying to understand the cognitive mechanisms of animal minds, and to do that you need to look at tests that animals can pass and those that they fail. In human psychology, researchers have discovered that the way people make mistakes is often most informative about how they think. The errors give away how they are solving problems. Is this true for animals, too? Or do they have a completely different way of conceptualizing problems? By looking at the errors the crows make, we may get a better understanding of how they successfully solve problems.

Jelbert reserved judgement as to whether or not the crows took the tricks they learned into the wild.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 24, 2014 at 3:29 am

[LINK] “Talking in tongues: New Caledonia promotes Kanak languages”

Nic Maclellan’s Islands Business article takes an extended look at the situation facing the languages of the Kanaks of New Caledonia, the minority indigenous population of the autonomous French-ruled Melanesian polity of New Caledonia. Many of the smaller languages are threatened by shift, whether to more widely spoken Melanesian languages or to French.

The Pacific Ocean is home to almost 20 percent of the world’s languages, especially with the great diversity of indigenous languages across Melanesia. In New Caledonia, there are twenty-eight Kanak languages, eleven dialects and one creole (Tayo), with an estimated 70,000 speakers from a total population of 254,000. For the director of the Academy of Kanak Languages, Weniko Ihage, this diversity is an asset for society. “There’s a panoply of 28 Kanak languages, each of them very different from the other,” Ihage told Islands Business at his office in Noumea.

“Most Kanak languages exist only in spoken form, so the mission of the ALK is to establish rules of usage and to help promote and develop all Kanak languages and dialects.”

While there are thousands of people fluent in four or five of the major Kanak languages, other smaller languages and dialects are endangered.

Colonisation has disrupted the transmission of language between generations and today many parents value fluency in French for their children, as a pre-requisite for advancement, jobs and higher education.

“The number of speakers varies from one island to another, from one area to another,” Ihage says. “There are four main languages: Drehu spoken on Lifou; Nengone spoken on Mare; Paicî around the town of Poindimie; and Ajië, which is spoken in the Houailou region.

“These four languages have the largest number of speakers, they’re also the languages taught in school, which senior students can study at the level of the baccalaureate, just as they might study other regional languages in France like Breton or Corsican.” The usage of Kanak languages is tied to official French attitudes to cultural policy. As France joined the European Union in 1992, Article 2 of the French Constitution was changed to state for the first time that “the language of the Republic is French.”

France puts significant resources into promoting the French language through its education system, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) and institutions like the Alliance Française.

For colonised people within the French empire, however, the use of their own language is tied to broader questions of identity, culture and sovereignty.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 27, 2013 at 7:27 pm