Bark painting of a barramundi, Western Arnhem Land (about 1961) (© The Trustees of the British Museum)

There are only a handful of bark art examples from the Dja Dja Wurrung in Australia, and they’re leagues away from their place of origin. A new exhibition of indigenous art of Australia at the British Museum, which holds these artifacts in their collections, will finally bring them back to the South Pacific. However, leaders there want them returned permanently.

Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation opens April 23 in London, the first major British exhibition to focus on indigenous Australia through these artifacts, many which have never been on public display. The British Museum’s release notes it will be a “unique narrative exploring the complex history of Indigenous Australia from Captain Cook’s landing in 1770 up to the present day” and has been “developed in consultation with many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, Indigenous art and cultural centres across Australia, and has been organised with the National Museum of Australia.” Many of these objects will then travel to the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. As the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported last month, that “will be the first time that these objects have been exhibited in Australia since they were collected.”


Allison Meier