Project connects Aboriginal communities with rich cultural history

11 Nov 2020 | 3 mins
Leonie Cheinmora

An international team including The University of Western Australia is connecting rich, cultural artefacts and history from the Kimberley region with the Aboriginal groups who provided them.

The team is working with Kimberley Traditional Owner groups to share a rare collection of cultural objects from past expeditions through Australia’s far northwest with their original communities.

The collection includes more than 3,000 unpublished archival materials including photos, drawings, repro¬≠ductions of rock art images, personal notebooks and papers. 

A group of anthropologists from a German research institute travelled through the far north Kimberley, documenting people, their traditions, cultural knowledge and the landscape in 1938 and 1939 and later in 1954 and 1955.

“Some of these materials are more than 80 years old and form part of a number of family histories of the Aboriginal communities in the Kimberley."

Associate Professor Martin Porr

The material collected during these expeditions is mostly housed in Germany’s Frobenius Institute and the collection is now being worked on systematically with Aboriginal Traditional Owners.

The team from UWA’s Centre for Rock Art Research and Management has been working with the Institute to digitise the collection and connect Kimberly groups with the photos.

Associate Professor Martin Porr from UWA’s School of Social Sciences and the Centre said the collection revealed a lot about the Kimberley’s rich Aboriginal heritage.  

“Some of these materials are more than 80 years old and form part of a number of family histories of the Aboriginal communities in the Kimberley,” Professor Porr said.

He said they were highly significant for the Aboriginal communities involved in the project.

“It’s a really important project in terms of giving back the original materials to the people they were collected from,” Professor Porr said.

Through this unique collaboration, the team hopes to contribute to the appreciation of the value and significance of Australia’s historical ethnographic collections.

The project is being carried out in collaboration with the Wunambal Gaambera, Dambimangari, and Wilinggin Aboriginal Corporations, the Museum der Weltkulturen in Frankfurt and the Museum Fünf Kontinente in Munich. 

Media references

Simone Hewett, UWA Media & PR Manager, 08 6488 3229 / 0432 637 716

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