Painting the police: Aboriginal visual culture and identity in colonial Cape York Peninsula

01st December 2010

Cole AA71 Figure8

Lee Cheu paintings from Laura, Cape York Peninsula (published in Australian Archaeology 71:21).

Noelene Cole

Aboriginal rock paintings of policemen near Laura and their ‘ethnographic interpretation’ were reported by Percy Trezise (1985:74, 1993) but are otherwise unstudied. This research integrates formal analysis of an assemblage of police and associated depictions with  cultural, historical and archaeological evidence to shed light on Indigenous society and identity in the frontier period (c.1873-1890s). In drawing on Aboriginal testimony the study connects with local webs of meaning. Stylistic analysis reveals the police motif as an innovative, specialised category within Quinkan style. Signs of cognitive structure include visual, material and contextual attributes (e.g. shape, colour and form, paint recipes,  graphic associations, positions and locations). Stylistic coherence suggests that radically new contexts of production (war, social and demographic transformations) did not disrupt the ancestral knowledge systems and unique worldviews which lie at the heart of visual culture at Laura. Unlike most colonial texts, the depictions record Indigenous identity in the contexts of local agency and colonialism.

Noelene Cole
Painting the police: Aboriginal visual culture and identity in colonial Cape York Peninsula
December 2010
71
17-28
Article
You must be a member to download the attachment ( Login / Sign up )