Saturday, February 14, 2015

Conflict with BM over Bark Art

Paul Daley - 'It taunts us spiritually': the fight for Indigenous relics spirited off to the UK ' The Guardian Saturday 14 February 2015

Three precious examples of bark art   – a shield, emu carving and a scene the British Museum controversially claims depicts a kangaroo hunt – taken from the Dja Dja Wurrung people in central Victoria in the 1850s were sold to the British Museum. Now these and other treasures could return to Australia – on loan only – as part of an exhibition :
They were taken by the Scottish settler John Hunter Kerr in the 1850s and sold to the British Museum. Bark art is usually synonymous with Indigenous people from northern Australia and the three Dja Dja Wurrung pieces from the comparative far south are believed to be the only ones of their period in existence. They may be precious to the British Museum but they are sacred to the custodians of the land around Boort from which they were taken. At least one of the barks is likely to be included in a forthcoming Australian exhibition of items from the British Museum’s collection. After five years of planning and extensive contact with Indigenous communities, the exhibition, Encounters, is due to open at the National Museum of Australia in November after a linked exhibition at the British Museum, which opens in April. In 2004, Murray, on behalf of the Dja Dja Wurrung, used the federal Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act to seize the barks while they were on loan to the Melbourne Museum (now Museum Victoria). After a protracted court case brought by the Melbourne Museum the barks were eventually returned to the British Museum, the repository of colonial treasure from all corners of the once-great empire it served.
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