NMA collection record

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Glass plate negative - Men fighting with clubs called

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Men duelling with clubs, 1920


This is a photograph by Herbert Basedow of two men engaged in what appears to be a duel with wooden clubs. The men step toward each other, one with his club raised to strike; the other with his club held horizontal, with one hand at each end, to defend. The ground is sandy and behind the men there are rocks, a small river or pond, and the ground beyond is dotted with trees.

Educational value

Basedow took this photograph at the Aboriginal camp attached to Henbury station, Northern Territory, in 1920. Probably, the duel is being staged for Basedow.

These men are using hardwood clubs. Often, a dispute is settled by a kind of 'duel' between two men - or two women, who would use similar clubs. One person would try to hit the other, while the other defends. Then they would swap, taking it in turns to inflict an injury. Usually, when one person is injured the matter is regarded as being settled.

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 Basedow's third medical relief expedition in central Australia.

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

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