Hollywood movies have historically represented the tropics as lush green coasts but lurking underneath is disease and danger.
Hollywood movies have long leaned into colonial representations of the tropics: imagined as romantic palm-fringed coasts full of abundance, but also scary places full of pestilence and primitiveness.
‘The Founding of Australia 1788’, an oil painting by Algernon Talmage.
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Britain had an urgent problem after it lost its American colonies: where to send its convicts. It settled on NSW after rejecting other options, but the new spot didn’t exactly live up to its billing.
A scene from the author’s film The Message, commissioned by the National Museum of Australia. At the first encounter in Botany Bay, two Gweagal warriors threw stones and spears at Cook, saying ‘warrawarrawa’, meaning ‘they are all dead’.
Nik Lachajczak of Zakpage
Incidents from Cook’s first voyage highlight themes relevant in Indigenous-settler relations today: environmental care, reconciliation and governance. This collision of beliefs, it seems, wasn’t lost on Cook.
Portrait of Mai, also known as Omai or Omai of the Friendly Isles.
Both islanders played a central role in Cook’s three voyages across the Pacific, but their contributions have largely been overshadowed in what is generally thought of as era of European exploration.
Botanist Joseph Banks recommended Botany Bay as the site for a penal colony.
Charles Gore (1788) / State Library of NSW
Botany was an integral feature of Britain’s colonial and imperial ambitions.
Joseph Banks portrait by Joshua Reynolds (circa 1771-1773).
National Portrait Gallery
For celebrated botanist Joseph Banks, his voyage with James Cook was more about extending imperial power than simply discovery.
A large bowl or pan thought to have been made in Sydney by the potter Thomas Ball between 1801 and 1823.
Courtesy of Casey & Lowe, photo by Russell Workman
Though the Indigenous inhabitants were using white clay long before them, Sydney-made pottery helped colonists maintain different aspects of ‘civilised’ behaviour.
Gnangarra via Wikipedia
Firewood banksia don’t just survive in Western Australia’s sandy plains, they thrive, showing off with vibrant, pink-red flower spikes.
Aboriginal elder Major Sumner sits outside Liverpool’s World Museum with a box containing the skull of an Australian indigenous person, taken from Australia between 1902 and 1904.
The question of repatriating objects is clearly more complex than returning human remains. It needs more debate, and more creative interventions to move beyond the current impasse.
Early prototype of Skippy.
Kangaroo Private Collection Courtesy of Nevill Keating Pictures Ltd
Not for the first time Britain and Australia are at loggerheads over cultural heritage. At issue this time are two images of genuine historical significance to both countries: Kongouro from New Holland…