Caution: This website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause distress to
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
This land holds their spirit
If a foreigner looks at this ... they’ll think it’s just an ordinary thing: a boomerang, painting, design. But that design tells a big story to the person who held that boomerang in their hand ... how he made it, what he used, and why he put the pattern on there.
Dorita Wilson, Yidinji, 2013
In the 1890s in Cairns in far north Queensland, colonial entrepreneurs were acquiring objects from the Yidinji community and producing photographs of Yidinji people to supply collectors, tourists and new colonists wanting souvenirs to send back home.
It would have been my people, it would have been my grandfathers and grandmothers ... who were making these necklaces ... the shields and the message sticks.
Henrietta Marrie, Gimuy Walabura Yidinji Elder, 2013
The shield (right) was among 90 objects collected by a young Englishman, Derwent Vallance, who paid the equivalent of a month’s wages for them. He wrote to his sister, ‘Do display them well as they are a very fine collection’. Objects such as these remain a source of pride among Yidinji people today.
Having these objects visiting here is the first step in negotiation between the sovereign Aboriginal nations of Australia ... It’s a negotiation between us and the British Government all over again ... for these objects to come back home. This land holds their spirit.
Gudju-gudju (Seith Fourmile), Yidinji Traditional Owner, 2013
This shield would have belonged to a wawun [scrub-turkey] man. The colours on the shield are the ochres and clays from country that people still use in ceremony. The white areas on the design are the djumbun [scorpion] design. The djumbun is a central totem for Yidinji people. [This shield is a fighting shield].Gudju-gudju (Seith Fourmile), Yidinji Traditional Owner, 2015
Vernon Ah Kee's artwork bears a striking rainforest shield design. On the back is the face of George Sibley, Ah Kee's great-grandfather, who was photographed by anthropologist Norman Tindale on Palm Island in 1938. It is one of a series that critiques white Australian beach culture.