NMA collection record

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Film negative - Aboriginal children bathing, Sunday Island, Western Australia, photographed by Herbert Basedow, 1916

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Children resting on a mangrove tree stump while bathing, 1916


This is a photograph by Herbert Basedow of six children bathing in a body of water. In the background is a steeply sloping rock face where many small shrubs grow. The children are arranged on and around a mostly-submerged rock or treestump. Two are standing up, out of the water, fully visible. The other four are half in the water. Everyone is looking at the camera.

Educational value

On Sunday Island in northern Western Australia, Basedow saw a group of children swimming in the ocean nearby. Occasionally the children would rest on a submerged mangrove tree stump. As Basedow put it, they "unconsciously pos[ed] as a human pyramid".

Herbert Basedow was a doctor, anthropologist and explorer. From 1903 to 1928 he ventured to remote regions of central and northern Australia - places rarely seen by Australians even today. Aboriginal people often feature in his photographs. Basedow wanted to document Aboriginal cultures as they had been before British colonisation, and often went to some lengths to craft his photographs to appear as such.

This photograph was taken during an expedition in the Kimberley region of north-east Western Australia to investigate a reported deposit of metal that would be useful for munitions.

© Education Services Australia Limited and the National Museum of Australia 2010

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