Discover Indigenised Kitsch at the Museum of Tropical Queensland

16 July 2010

When non-Indigenous Australians attempted to make Indigenous-themed souvenirs last century, the results could range from kitsch to offensive, says Trish Barnard from the Museum of Tropical Queensland.

The Senior Curator of Cultures and Histories will present a talk on the history of these strange and often politically-incorrect knick-knacks at the Museum on Tuesday 13 July at 12pm.

Locals are invited to bring in their “Indigenised” memorabilia for Ms Barnard to examine, such as tea towels, wall plaques, ashtrays, Brownie Downing souvenirs, and Studio Anna, Vande and Essex Ware ceramics from the post-war era – the older the souvenir the better.

Ms Barnard is currently studying Indigenous-themed objects from a remarkable assemblage of over 2,000 souvenirs and collectibles donated to the Queensland Museum by leading Queensland historian Glenn Cooke.

The collection represents tourist objects made by non-Indigenous or even non-Australian designers that reflect blatant appropriation, influence and adoption of Indigenised motifs.

Museum of Tropical Queensland Director Peter McLeod said the talk would shine a light on an unusual aspect of the Museum collection.

“Most people associate a museum with priceless treasures, but our mission is also to tell stories of everyday life and real history,” Mr McLeod said.

“So it’s important we don’t shy away from preserving items such as these mementos of a prior era.”

Ms Barnard said the non-Indigenous designers benefited by the implied Indigeneity and use of Australiana motifs to authenticate an object as being “Australian”.

“The first week of July is NAIDOC Week, so this is a good time to reflect on how far Australia has come from the era when Indigenous culture was appropriated so freely,” Ms Barnard said.

The lecture, titled “Hunters and Collectors: appropriation and misrepresentation of Aboriginal culture within the Glenn Cooke collection” is part of the Museum of Tropical Queensland’s Discover More Talk series, held on the second Tuesday of each month.

Entry to the Museum of Tropical Queensland is free for locals through the Council Community Pass, supported by Townsville, Burdekin, Charters Towers and Hinchinbrook councils.

The Museum of Tropical Queensland, part of the Queensland Museum, is open from 9.30am - 5pm daily.

Media Contacts:
Mei Nee Cheong 4726 0603 or 0414 264 987
Stephen Wilson 4726 0604 or 0431 334 583