Indigenous Australia Exhibition at the British Museum, June 3rd 2015
Posted by Lisa Hill on June 3, 2015
In the afternoon we visited the Indigenous Australia Exhibition at the British Museum.
Nobody was taking photos so we thought we’d better not, but there is a video at the BM website that shows some of the paintings.
The exhibition was smaller than we were expecting, and I had thought that there would be more artefacts that had been taken back to Britain by the early explorers and settlers. Still, it was interesting to see the original of “Batman’s Treaty” and that notorious poster that was used to show the Aborigines that British justice would be applied to both the indigenous people and the settlers. (Which of course it wasn’t.) There were examples of tools, weapons, basketwork, and jewellery and so on, and the signage was quite well done I thought though it glossed over some things such as the number of indigenous language groups that have been lost or are endangered.
It was also interesting to see the reaction of the other visitors. It was quite clear from their avid attention to the signage that they knew very little about indigenous art and culture, so (whatever the politics of museum v indigenous ownership), I was pleased to see that this exhibition has increased awareness of the oldest living culture on earth.
Contemporary Australia doesn’t come out of it too well. There was a video timeline that showed the Apology and the return of traditional lands by Gough Whitlam but as you’d expect, even though it was tactfully handled, there was more about unfinished business.
There was an intriguing video at the end of the exhibits, of a man weaving a basket, claiming to be the only person who still knew how to do this particular type of weaving using a wood called ‘wait-a-while’. It was intriguing because as far as I know, basket weaving was – and still is – women’s work.
I was delighted to see Kim Scott’s Miles Franklin winning novel That Deadman Dance on sale in the shop afterwards!