This history of Shukkinak was constructed during an "Off the Beaten Track" workshop held in conjunction with the turn the soil exhibition at RMIT, Saturday 22 March 1997. Participants were Amanda Johnson, Elissa Mukhtar, Melanie Beddie, Philip Morrissey, Roseanne Bartley, Stephen Goldate, Susan Cohn, Suzie Attwill and Kevin Murray. A text by David Odell provided a source narrative, elements of which remain in the processed version.
The narrative below is intended to serve as a framework for further contributions to the history of Shukkinak - a nation that serves the speculation of what Australia might have been like if someone else had colonised it. Anyone is free to draw on his or her talents to contribute to the cultural and historical development of Shukkinak. Though belonging to a different time-space dimension to our own, it may be a useful location on which to graft utopian alternatives to the present. A list of outstanding information about Shukkinak is listed at the end of the document.
Together with images of the flag, weapon and map of Shukkinak, this history will be uploaded to the web site for global response.
The first Phoenician explorer to reach the shores of this continent was believed to be Abd-haddon, in about 415 BC. He was an eccentric and somewhat disenchanted adventurer who led a fleet of twenty vessels consisting mostly of fellow Chaldaeans. The Chaldaeans had been former rulers of Phoenicia but had been replaced by the Persians about 100 years previously (538 BC). Chaldaean colonists had been assimilated into the Phoenician mercantile culture but had brought with them a greater emphasis on magic and mysticism, and especially an obsession with astrology. By the late 400s, this Chaldaean subculture had become disaffected from mainstream Phoenician life as their position at the peak of the social hierarchy was taken over by Persians and others.
A kind of obsession had developed about a New World far to the East of anything previously known, where it was believed that the Gods kept their storehouse of wisdom. According to their theories, an auspicious comet was due to appear in southern skies in order to guide them to this promised land. Abd-haddon, with a shrewd eye to possible traffic in spices and dyestuffs and precious stones, led an expedition (part-commercial part-zealot) to the land beyond the lands of the dawn. Initially, they followed established Phoenician trade routes and made their way to the West Coast of India. Departing from chartered waters, they ventured forth down through Sri Lanka and island-hopped along the Indonesian archepelago.
Southern continent found
Still searching for the predicted constellation of stars, they ventured across the sea south of Java until they found a huge landmass. The new land greeted their arrival with an auspicious gesture: the tide had receded to reveal a staircase that had been formed naturally from the coastline. Their hope to find the celestial land was further confirmed that evening with a stunning meteor shower.
The local inhabitants, the Bidyadanga people, had lost memories of anyone other than themselves. The Phoenicians assumed these people to be custodians of a sacred place, and the inhabitants marvelled at their technology. There was also more than a little physical attraction between the two peoples. An exchange was quickly established: tools and maritime knowledge for navigation and survival skills. With expert assistance, the newcomers eventually found their way to the centre of this huge island, at which point they experienced intense spiritual visions that were recorded and are now treasured as key sacred texts.
Roughly half the number of travellers gathered provisions to make the return journey back to Phoenicia, while the others stayed to establish a small outpost on the northwest coast. Perhaps the stargazers that returned with Abd-haddon were a more junior group because they were not as fortunate in their voyage home as they had been on the voyage out - only one of the ships made it back to Sidon. All but a few of the smaller meteorites were lost and just two of the star-gazers remained, but they were still on fire and rapidly spread word of the wondrous place they had been to, which they named, Shamem-hadashti, meaning "new heaven". They were listened to with a certain scepticism, tempered by the evidences they had brought with them, especially some small blue metallic meteorites and a rudimentary star map. As disaffection with Persian rule grew a new faction of believers crystallized around these stories of Shamem-hadashti.
It was not until nearly 50 years later in 361 BC that a new and larger convoy set forth guided by the maps and oral instructions left by the two star-gazers from the Abd-haddon voyage, who were now of course dead. The members of this larger expedition were fortunate in their timing because shortly after they left Phoenicia revolted against the Persians, a revolt which was ultimately put down in a very bloody fashion by Ataxerxes III, and most of the Chaldaean-Phoenicians back home perished.
When they eventually made their way back to the southern island, they formed together a community of roughly twelve hundred people - mostly men and many of them priests. With enterprise borne of necessity and spiritual energy, they started exploring the coast of the continent, starting small outposts dotted along the coast where trade could be established with local Aboriginal communities. They soon found some remarkable harbours where their ships could be docked and large catches of fish could be taken.
Besides the journey to the island's centre, a significant early achievement was the first circumnavigation of the continent. Once this was completed, it was deemed appropriate to officially name to their new home. At first, it was called Ub-Shukkinaku, meaning 'Assembly of Gods'. Later this was shortened to Shukkinak, as it is known today.
The kind of colonisation that occurred in Shukkinak was characterised by small townships along the coast. Inhabitants travelled a great deal, especially by ship. There were occasional gatherings of large numbers in harbours for seasonal catches. Besides a heightened spiritual sense, the inhabitants of Shukkinak were also clever military tactitians and were able to train the local population to defend the continent from any future attack. They are famous for the invention of a particular all-purpose blade, known as the 'Shukkinak', which is used not only in fighting but also in stripping whale flesh.
Despite this prowess, the initial attempts to make contact with the inhabitants of the island on the southeast corner of Shukkinak proved unsuccessful. Unlike inhabitants of the mainland, these indigenous people reacted violently to Shukkinak presence. As the settlers were only interested in the mainland, they were content to let the inhabitants of the smaller island continue on their own course.
The major military test for Shukkinak came with the arrival of European powers in the late eighteenth-century. Though lacking sophisticated weaponry, the Shukkinak knowledge of the seas made them formidable enemies to any foreign power. A fleet of British ships, seeking a home for unwanted criminals, was forced to dock elsewhere after sustained hostility from Shukkinak navy.
The settlers brought with them expertise in the use of dyes, particularly purple dyes. While this knowledge was extinguished in the Middle East with the sacking of Constantinople, it survived in Shukkinak. This is a source not only of immense national pride, but also strict observance. It is forbidden for any person not a citizen of Shukkinak to wear purple. As might be expected, this puzzling restriction causes occasional tension with tourists and other visitors to Shukkinak.
Contact with Aboriginal mythology caused Shukkinak religion to develop in particular ways. The discovery of 'women's business' strengthened the power of the female priestly class. The sex division of Shukkinak priests was largely over competing claims as to the gender of their god. Different theories as to the sex of god would wax and wane, along with the relative importance of male and female priests. The male priests tend to specialise more in astrological sciences, whereas the female celebrate the chewing drug pitjeri and are more often the figureheads of popular revolts. The discovery of 'women's business' strengthened the power of the female priestly class.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of practice in both priestly classes was human sacrifice. Even to this day, ritual slaughter of one of their number is not only considered necessary to appease their god, but also a great honour to be bestowed on the most pure of their number. Before slaughter, the body is covered in purple dyes.
Sacrifice was tied to special events in the astronomical calendar. Though this sacrifice is carried on in secret, religious festivities involving every member of the population accompany it. Protests by human rights groups in the Western world, and now bolstered by growing protests within Shukkinak, have led to the exclusion of this nation from various global security councils.
On the world stage, the Shukkinak excel in sports such as yachting, rowing and athletics. They have contributed greatly to knowledge of medicine, thanks to a synthesis of Semitic science and bush savvy. They are keen soccer players and have special diplomatic ties with Lebanon. It is their special place in world affairs to broker peace between those of Semitic descent, such as Arabs and Jews.
The culture of Shukkinak has been a source of special fascination for the west. William Morris visited in the late nineteenth-century to learn about their dying technologies. D.H. Lawrence's novel Kangaroo is considered now a rather idealised vision of Shukkinak sensuality - formed after only a brief visit. Their early works of "primitive abstractions" was the reason why modernists such as the American painter Rothko made special pilgrimages here.
The currency is called immanak. Their technological inventions include landships, used mainly for crossing deserts. Since the early twentieth-century, solar power has been developing and is now the main source of energy. Shukkinak architecture features quite open structures (they are a hardy people). Their national costume is a wrap, which is tied at the waist and forms a fold in front of the genitals.
The capital of Shukkinak is XXX located at a harbour on the central north coast. This city supports a thriving trade with Southeast Asian countries.