'The pen is mightier than the sword.' Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1839


- Who/what would humans be without conflict?
- How does conflict shape who we are?
- Freedom, peace, justice, equality, love. What do these ideals
mean? In what ways can they be achieved?

Encountering conflict can be difficult. However, it is ultimately worthwhile. Bearing witness, acknowledging conflict, is how humanity can work to grow and evolve in a positive way. This is why your Yr 12 English study of the Context 'Encountering Conflict' is so exciting. You have the opportunity to go on a journey where you can consider the world from many different viewpoints and through many different mediums. You can inspire and be inspired, you can have your say, you can affect change in the world - locally, nationally and globally.

This blog is intended to be a portal that will transport you into a place where you can consider the Context in a way that allows you to share your thinking and ideas. It is designed to let you:

- learn about the set texts; The Secret River by Kate Grenville and The Rugmaker of Mazar-E-Sharif by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hamilton

- go beyond the set texts to develop your thoughts about the Context

- study language features that occur in the set texts

- practise different forms of writing in a forum where you can recieve feedback from teachers, experts and peers.

There are a number of areas for you to access and contribute to in this blog. They are:

- Conflict Concerns: is the blogging space on this home page for general discusssion about the context and set texts. Exploration and challenging discussion about 'Encountering Conflict' is the aim. Also, questions about the course and what you are meant to be doing can be shared here.

- Music Matters: a space to share and comment on music that is relevant to the Context. You can also discuss how the songs might relate to the set context in ideas, themes, values and language features.

- Text Tremors: discuss how written texts have moved and shaped your ideas in regards to the Context.

- Film Flogging: inspire others by sharing your thoughts on how films, documentaries and t.v. shows you have viewed encounter conflict in their narratives. Comment on parallels that may arise between films and the set texts.

- Picture Panic: share images that make you think about the context and the world you live in. Explain how the pictures you encounter represent the idea of 'encountering conflict' and how they impact on your view of life and how it should be lived.

- Prompt Response: respond to prompts that you have been given and that appear in this space to practise writing 'Creating and Presenting' responses. Upload them here for conferencing that will help you hone your skills to meet the criteria for this area of study to the best of your ability in SACs and the exam.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Getting to know Najaf

• In the late-1980s the former (Soviets) dropped a rocket on his family home, killing his brother and brother-in-law, and permanently injuring his mother and himself (he suffered leg injuries).

• The Taliban murdered his uncle and cousin in 1998

• Nearly died on the boat overturned by a cyclone but the navy rescued them

• Washed dishes for a dollar an hour

• His wife and three-year-old daughter remain in Afghanistan and he regularly sends money to them and other family members

• A member of the Hazara ethnic minority

• He is a rug-maker

• Former soviets dropped a rocket on his home in the late 1980s

• The Taliban murdered his uncle and cousin in 1998

• Paid a people smuggler $3500 in 2001 to bring him to Australia

• Sent to a refugee camp called Woomera

• As a child he had a bomb dropped on his home, it killed his brother and brother-in-law.

• He badly injured his leg and was no help to his family so they were unhappy with him

• He then got a job at the rug repair shop. He loved going to work.

• He married his wife and had a daughter.

• He got captured by the Taliban, and put in a room with many other Hazara men. They took them out one by one and tried to make them admit to killing Taliban, and some men admitted to it just so they could die and escape the whippings.

• He was released from this place and decided to flee to Australia.

• He was kept in a detention centre for four months.

• Najaf was then released and bought a building to open his rug shop.

• His wife and daughter were then granted entry into Australia and they gained citizenship.

• In the late-1980s the former (Soviets) dropped a rocket on his family home, killing his brother and brother-in-law, and permanently injuring his mother and himself (he suffered leg injuries).

• The latter (Taliban) murdered his uncle and cousin in 1998 by setting their house alight.

• He travelled by car to Pakistan, then by plane to Indonesia where he boarded a small fishing vessel with 96 other asylum seekers.

• He was incarcerated for four months while his case was assessed.

• He witnessed acts of frustration and despair, including detainees cutting themselves.

• He moved to Melbourne hoping to find factory work.

• He sells all manner of rugs from Afghanistan and India, and carries out repairs sent to him from around the country.

• He went on to work with carpet and rug manufacturer Customweave, before friends helped him open his own business, Afghan Traditional Rugs, in 2002

• One customer has since become his "Australian mum". Robin Bourke, a retired teacher from East Hawthorn, was looking for a cushion cover but ended up with a new student. Now Mazari visits Bourke and her husband on Thursday nights for a meal and an English lesson.

• Mazari's life has been enriched since he was granted permanent residency in July.

Sunday School

The Blue Mosque of Mazar-E-Sharif

Access the ABC's Sunday School Podcasts to listen to direct discussion of our Context and focus texts:

Sunday School: The Rug-Maker of Mazar-E-Sharif - ABC Melbourne - Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Sunday School: The Rug-Maker of Mazar-E-Sharif - ABC Melbourne - Australian Broadcasting Corporation

ABC 4 Corners: About Woomera

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Take a virtual tour of Najaf Mazari's store

Explore Najaf's life and experiences further by taking a virtual tour of his store's website. There are articles about The Rugmaker, images of him at work, information about the tradition of Afghan rugmaking and much more. If you find yourself being inspired with writing ideas leave comments about about what they are at the bottom of this post.

Context Brainstorm (with Wallwisher)

What do we think 'Encountering Conflict' means?

You have all spent some time thinking about this and putting together a mini journal that explores the ideas of our context. I would like you to take some of those thoughts to create sticky notes at this Wallwisher page.

For assessment I need you to add stickynotes that feature your nickname. To do this you will need to set up a Wallwisher account. It is easy and free. Visit http://www.wallwisher.com/account/login to find the sign in page.

'The Age' - Useful articles

These two articles from 'The Age' offer information about 'The Rugmaker' but that is worth looking at as you try to determine what you are going to write about in your Creating and Presenting SACs. The first article link offers activities for thinking that support the learning we have been doing in class throughout the year.


When you write your STATEMENT OF EXPLANATION...

Consider the pnemonics - FLAP+C

F = Form
L= Language
A = Audience
P = Purpose (prompt)
C = Context

Your piece of writing needs to obviously link to the set text (The Crucible or The Rugmaker), but it also needs to demonstrate that you have looked beyond the set text to inform your thinking and ideas. To make sure this is something we are working towards achieving it is a requirement that your statement of explanation presents a bibliography. This will demonstrate background reading and research you have undertaken to explore the context - Encountering Conflict.

You must respond to the prompt you are given to shape your writing piece. Addressing the prompt is critical to achieving the task requirements. Unpack the prompt, identify its key words and think about their synonyms and antonyms, what does the prompt make you think about - in relation to events in the set text and on a world scale, what are the differing perspectives that the prompt can be viewed with, how do you agree or disagree with the prompt, how will you impart a response to the prompt clearly in your writing.

View p.108 of your Insight English to see a range of expository, persuasive and imaginary writing forms you can choose.

Remember the Creating and Presenting mantra:

1. Consider the Context - explore it
2. Address the prompt
3. Draw from the set text - obviously

Refugees as a news topic

Many pages of the media have been devoted to the plight of refugees. The following articles from the 'Herald Sun' offer background and discussion about the Malaysian solution and the High Courts deliberation that it was an illegal action.



Further reading:


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Techniques in Chapter 1 and 2 of The Rugmaker

NB: For the Creating and Presenting Area of Study you are required to look at the set text as a model for excellent writing. You need to be analysing the text for the literary devices the authors employ with the aim that you can use them to enhance your own writing. Implementing techniques from the set text into your own writing is one of the ways that you can draw from the set text. For the SAC, you should explain these choices in your statement of explanation.


The opening paragraph contains a number of questions, 'How heartsick can I become before I break down and weep in front of everyone?...a spot where I can't be seen and can't be heard. And where would that be?...in the camp...if such a spot exists, wouldn't I have discovered it...?' The use of questions in this manner is present throughout the whole text.

'...hundreds of people from lands...that are mysterious to me...' The idea of 'the other', 'the alien', 'xenophobia', is dealt with throughout the whole text.

The use of inclusive language is important to how the text operates. It is used repetitively at times. In the instance on page one it actually operates as inclusive and exclusive. 'We who are watched and guarded, we who are questioned, probed, doubted - we are all illegals. We have come to Australia without invitation. We have jumped the queue.' Mazari highlights here that the refugees are a separate group of people, viewed as criminals for committing crimes they did not know existed.

'But it was never my intention to jump this strange queue of which I had never heard.' Mazari and Hillman have chosen to immediately address a popular point of contention that arises during discussions of the refugee crises. They do this to spotlight the fact that in many cases refugees have no context to understand that there is a 'queue' they must participate in to seek their freedom. By outlining this upfront in the text they humanise the refugee experience for the reader inviting their empathy and understanding.

'Back in Mazar-e-Sharif, I have a Taskera...a family history going back for ages. But no birth certificate. Very few Afghanis can produce such a document. What a country I come from! Strangers to the idea of queue-jumping, and on top of that, babies are born without anything in writing to prove that they exist!' Exclamation marks are used at times within the text to highlight that which seems unbelievable but is actually real. In this instance the exclamations further educate the reader to the cultural and societal differences between countries, even in this technologically advanced world of globalisation. The aim is to get the reader to put themselves in the shoes of someone who has lived under persecution, in poor living conditions, without systems of fair governance and most often, with little, if any formal education.

'I see...I see...I see...I see...I see...I see...I see...I hear...I hear...In this mood that combines rapture and despair I begin to sing.' This use of anaphora within the middle paragraph of page three captures the loneliness that Najaf is experiencing while stuck in the camp by creating a vivid image for the reader of all that he is missing. It appeals to the reader's senses of sight, sound and feeling. A melancholy and sentimental tone is set by the expressive, emotive writing.

'Afghanis came to Australia...to work...more than 100 years ago...' This comment makes a point that really, there is a lot of similarities between every cultural group that has come to Australia to esape poverty and/or war in the past two centuries. Also, it makes the connection for the reader that the Middle Eastern communities have actually been established within Australian society for a while now. They are not foreign to the Australian community as some people might imagine.

'So I sing, but the words feel sweet on my lips, like the juice of some over-ripe fruit. It is a pleasure to use my native tounge in this way, exploring the shadows of language.' Music, language and culture are such an important part of peoples' identities and souls. At times throughout the text Mazari shares elements of the Hazari language and way of life. He incorporates the verses of song and poetry a couple of times to humanise the refugee story for an indifferent reader.

'What do I know of life? I know that life is work. I know that a man rolls up his sleeves and labours. I know that he must preserve his dreams.' Mazari and Hillman deliberately outline Najaf's values and beliefs in the closing section of the first chapter. They are the same values and beliefs that resonate within our society's mainstream cultural priorities.

'I can hope...I think of the red flowers around the mosque at at Mazar-e-Sharif. I think of how they bloom each year, no matter how many rockets explode over them.' This is an example of metaphor being used to have a visual and emotional impact on the reader. It works to juxtapose the fragility and strength of life all at once. Najaf and the refugees are as the red flowers and the strength and courage of the human spirit can possibly nourish them till it is their time to bloom.

Chapter Two:

'The mujahedin...the Russians...the Taliban...the Americans...' Nazari and Hillman provide the reader with a history of Aghanistan. They aim to present a representation that is informative and educates people about the plight of the innocent Afghan civilian who is a victim in many different ways.

'The old tinsmith I saw in the marketplace of Mazar-e-Sharif turned inside out by a mortar explosion could not be remade. When people are broken as badly as that man, or as badly as many others I have seen - old men, young men, mothers, small children - they are beyond fixing, all of them.' This sentence uses vivid imagery and emotive language to explain the impact of bombs on people.

'Mazar-e-Sharif...It's a small city by world standards, but fairly big for Afgjanistan. It had a population of 110, 000, while the largest city in Afghanistan, the capital, Kavul, had shrunk from 1.3 million people to no more than 700,000 people by 1988, with all the troubles in our country.' Interesting facts that impart the ferocity of the fighting in Afghanistan.

'In many ways we are the people we were hundreds of years ago, and even hundreds of years before that.'

'My mother laid out toishaks - the cotton-filled mattresses that we use in Afghanistan...' Mazari and Hillman provide a definition of a toishak, this explanation suggests that the target audience indeed lives in a first world Western country, in particular Australia.

'The second rocket exploded...My hearing was gone...images...were like those in a silent movie...images that had nothing to do with what was happening floated into my mind, then lapsed and drifted away: the sheep I used to tend as a boy; my father's body being prepared for burial; Gorg Ali, peeling an apple with is knife, using only one hand.' A frightening passage recounting the experience of living through a bombing raid is delivered with absolute realism. Mazari and Hilmman employ a montage sequence to to enhance the description of Najaf's frame of mind during the bombing. 'It seemed to me that death was approaching...'

'In the days that followed, I lay in bed attempting to master the pain in my leg and the pain in my heart.' This sentence juxtaposes the physical and emotional suffering that Najaf is going through.

'I wondered what my fate was to be in this land of Afghanistan, where war suceeded war...That seemed the beginning of this journeyI was on; this journey that asked so much of me and my family.'

Structure and Language of The Rugmaker

Najaf's story unfolds through two interlinking narratives: the first is about Najaf's Australian experience and the second is his recount of his life from boy to adult in Afghanistan.

The chapters set in Australia are narrated in the present tense, the chapters set in Afghanistan use the past tense.

Australia - 2001-2006, Afghanistan 1977-2001

The chapters alternate throughout the text, a chapter set in Australia is followed by a chapter set in Afghanistan. This is a narrative strategy to demonstrate the ways in which Najaf's past impacts on his present.

The language used to write this text is simple. This deliberate choice by the authors achieves several things:
- highlights that English is Najaf's second language. Short sentences and straightforward language.
- reads like a spoken language, true to how Najaf might have told his story to Hillman.
- It is Najaf's voice telling the story, not Hillman's
- The simplicity of the language outlines Najaf's outlook on life. Humble and sincere.