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Old man with a fan to keep flies away, 1928

Description

This is a photograph by Herbert Basedow of an elderly man seated on flat, sandy ground, holding a fan made of feathers.

Educational value

This blind man is sitting in his camp in Arnhem Land. In his hand he has an immejet - a fan - made from a bird's wing, probably from a magpie goose. He uses it to keep flies and mosquitoes away from his body.

Aboriginal people were cared for when they became old and infirm. And generally, they may have been better off in country than in a town. Having tended to the medical needs of Aboriginal people on several expeditions, Basedow reported that overall, the health of those living in settled areas was worse than that of the people living in country.

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 a four-month exploration of Arnhem Land, south-east of Darwin in the Northern Territory.

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

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