Macassan/Indigenous Australian 'sites of memory' in the National Museum of Australia and Australian National Maritime Museum

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Abstract

For over two centuries people from Makassar on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi came to northern Australia with the onset of the northeast monsoon winds. They came in search of trepang that, with the help of Indigenous Australians, they collected and traded on to China. Their impact on the Indigenous communities in Arnhem Land was considerable. Along with sharing language, technology and culture, they built relationships, many ongoing, that are celebrated in Yolngu art, song and stories. These stories of contact are well known to many archaeologists and anthropologists but for many Australians the only place where they come into contact with these stories is in a museum display. In this paper I examine the ways in which these stories are disseminated by two national museums, the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney and the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. As important 'lieux de mémoire' or 'sites of memory', they tell of Macassan visits to northern Australia as part of Australian history. In both cases not only are the stories situated in the past but both Macassan and Indigenous Australian voices are largely absent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-386
Number of pages16
JournalAustralian Geographer
Volume42
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011

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