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Beyond bridge and barrier: Torres Strait and curious artefact distributions between Queensland and New Guinea

Ian McNiven (Professor at Monash University Australia)

For 200 years, Torres Strait has been seen as an important boundary for the distribution of ethnographic object types between Aboriginal Australia and Melanesian New Guinea. If movement of objects did occur, it was generally seen as one-way and associated with the diffusion of Melanesian objects into northeast Australia. But how real is this maritime boundary and one-way movement? Using a range of case studies of ethnographic objects such as cone shell adornments, bamboo smoking pipes, stone-headed clubs, and spearthrowers, this presentation shows that Torres Strait Islanders facilitated two-way sharing of objects between Australia and New Guinea, but not always. I will argue that such sharing extends back to 3000 years ago based on startling new archaeological evidence of the manufacture of pottery of Melanesia form by north Queensland Aboriginal people.


Provenance and Pitfalls

Hermione Waterfield
Watch the lecture here

The talk is based on my book of the same name: Provenance, where I discuss some ardent collectors over the past two hundred years. What motivates them and how tastes have changed. I will also discuss some of the distortions can that be made about objects. What exactly is is a fake? Objects should be put in context and judged accordingly.
Provenance: Twelve Collectors of Ethnographic Art in England 1760-1990
Paperback – Illustrated, September 8, 2009
by Hermione Waterfield (Author), J. C. H. King (Author)

Picture: James Keggie with some of his stock in Clifton Gardens, Maida Vale, circa 1950


Headrests of Southern Africa – The Architecture of Sleep

Bruce Goodall

Headrests of Southern Africa – The Architecture of Sleep features 438 headrests from the KwaZulu-Natal, Eswatini and Limpopo regions of southern Africa. These objects of symbolic as well as practical value are brought to life with wide-ranging insights into their creation, ownership, use and significance. Detailed historical knowledge specific to their place of origin is complemented by unique personal information collected from many of the original owners and some of the carvers of the headrests.


Encountering Iban Textiles:
A Personal, Historical, Theoretical, and Current Perspective

Thomas Murray and Kristal Hale

I encountered my first Pua Kumbu on December 31, 1976 and it was love at first sight. I was visiting the home of a doctor friend who had walked across Borneo taking care of orangutans.
The pattern was compelling, organic, psychedelic. I wanted to know more…He said their motifs were known to attract the gods to the longhouse for headhunting ceremonies…
and at that moment my life changed…