The first thing that needs to be said is that Tasmania is an island and its Aboriginal inhabitants represent at least a 35,000 year cultural continuum that was rudely interrupted by European colonial endeavour – and colonialism ultimately enveloped 'the place’ in its global dimension. Before November 24 1642 the island was the whole world – today it sits at its edge and in its own idiosyncratic way, it mirrors it.
“Tasmaniana” is to do with 'placedness' – the celebration of place, placemaking and placemarking. The idea defies clean definitions but when you encounter it you somehow know that you have. Rather than being a ‘concrete’ idea Tasmaniana is ‘liquid’ – it seems to seep everywhere and wet everything. Quite apart from all this, Tasmaniana is a layered and loaded idea full of cultural and social tensions.
Indeed, the so called 'Culture Wars' and 'Black Armband Politics' recently alluded to in the Australian political arena are not so far away from much of what is implied by 'Tasmaniana'.
Yes there is a Tasmaniana Library at the State Library in Hobart but that’s not the end of it and nor could it be any kind of 'Tasmaniana prescriptor'.
Tasmaniana is a somewhat elastic concept; an attitude; a sensibility. It is hardly a concrete yardstick against which to measure things. For those attuned, on the island and elsewhere Tasmaniana is somewhat ubiquitous – it’s in imagery; it can be found in a vista; it’s evident in objects; it’s in sounds and fragrances; it’s experienced; it’s to do with memory and sometimes forgetting; histories reek of it; stories reflect it; it is the kind of idea that is sometimes spiked with shame and guilt.
Tasmaniana is an idea with nuances. Some who embrace the idea do the nuanceing, most know what it is about and all are a part of it.
Tasmania proudly wears the “clean, green and clever” badge. Yet some of Tasmania’s waterways are the dirtiest in the world and many of its landscapes are being devastated while others are becoming deserts – none of which exhibits much cleverness but nonetheless it is a part of the Tasmaniana discourse.
In a kind of a way “wilderness" has come to be a characteristic ‘Tasmaniana Idea’ yet it is an enanthema to many of Tasmania’s Aboriginal people. Tasman’s telescope would be the ‘Holy Grail’ of Tasmaniana yet Tasman himself never set foot on the island and nor was it ‘made in Tasmania' – Tasman has however lent his name to the place albeit that he didn't "discover Tasmania". Tasmaniana is a complex idea – nonetheless it is one where local understandings subsume global visions.