Curator hopes exhibition will educate the UK public about the diversity of Indigenous culture while not shying away from Australia’s dark past
An exhibition of Indigenous Australian artefacts showcasing the nation’s diversity and “difficult history” will be held at London’s British Museum later this year.
The exhibition, Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation, will run from 23 April to 2 August and is thought to be the biggest and most significant of its kind to be held outside Australia.
Gaye Sculthorpe, the British Museum’s curator for Oceania and Australia, said the exhibition would follow four years of research and close consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities.
She hoped it would educate the UK public about the diversity of Indigenous Australian culture, while not shying away from the country’s dark past.
“Parts of Australian history are difficult and I think in Australia today people are trying to acknowledge that,” Sculthorpe said.
“If you acknowledge that, then you can move on. It’s not a simple story. There are nuances across the country at different times and I’m hoping this exhibition will convey that.
“While it is art and an exhibition, it’s essentially about Indigenous culture and Indigenous history and telling that history outside of Australia.”
Among the many significant items on display will be a shield collected after a skirmish at Botany Bay in 1770 during James Cook’s expedition.
Others include a turtle shell mask from Mer in the Torres Strait dating back to 1855, Uta Uta Tjangala’s influential artwork Yumari, and a club used by the Indigenous cricket team that toured England in 1868.
The exhibition will bring together items currently in the British Museum or the National Museum of Australia and many loaned from other institutions.
A similar exhibition is to be held at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra later this year.