NMA collection record

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Black and white negative glass lantern slide - Expedition guides next to wet-weather huts, photographed by Herbert Basedow, Liverpool River, 1928

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Expedition guides next to wet-weather huts, 1928


This is a photograph by Herbert Basedow of a group of people sitting in front of a large, low shelter. A child is sitting on the shoulders of one of the four adults. The frame of the shelter is of sturdy wooden sticks, and its roof is made from large rectangles of flattened bark. Behind it is a stand of tall trees.

Educational value

Depending on where they lived, Arnhem Land people might only move camps two or three times a year. They would spend the dry season (the middle of the calendar year) in lower areas including flood plains and the wet seasons in higher areas such as the escarpment. They built different shelters depending on the time of year. Wet season shelters, such as this one, were more substantial in order to keep the rain out. They were constructed of sheets of paperbark over a wooden frame. Sometimes to while the time away, people would paint designs in ochre on the inside of the shelters.

Aboriginal people regard seasons differently to white people. In Arnhem Land, for example, where white people divide the year into the wet and the dry, Aboriginal people have up to seven seasons. These are characterised by different weather patterns and the appearance of certain plants and animals. This is one reflection of the deep understanding Aboriginal people have of their environments.

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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