Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation
23 April – 2 August 2015
The first UK exhibition devoted to the 60,000 year-old culture of indigenous Australians and the challenges to preserve it in the face of colonisation.
Produced in collaboration with aboriginal and Torres Strait islander individuals, this exhibition aims to explore the challenges faced by indigenous Australians between Captain Cook's invasion and the present day.
In 1770 Cook landed on the east coast of Australia where he found hundreds of different aboriginal groups with their own communities and languages. Claiming the land for the British Empire, it was ruled by foreign governance until 1901 when Australia was formed.
Included in the display is a shield believed to have been found at Botany Bay by Cook or one of his men, as well as other examples of early aboriginal objects from early naval voyages by colonists, and missionaries. Collected at a time before museums existed, they provide tangible evidence of some of the earliest moments of contact between indigenous peoples and the British.
These items are shown alongside exhibits such as a protest placard from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy established in 1972, and contemporary paintings from leading indigenous artists.
Yumari by Uta Uta Tjangala is a key piece in understanding the contemporary aboriginal experience. Tjangala was an inspirational leader who developed a plan for the Pintupi community to return to their homelands after decades of living at Papunya – a government settlement 240km northwest of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
He used art to express his message, translating the traditions of sand sculptures and body painting onto canvas. He produced this work at Papunya, and a design from the piece forms a watermark on current Australian passports.