NMA collection record

Man demonstrating method of attack with boomerangs and a shield, 1920


This is a photograph by Herbert Basedow of a man poised, facing the camera, holding a shield and boomerang as if ready to attack the viewer. His face, arms, chest and legs are painted with broad white strokes, and he has a bundle of feathers tied into his hair.

Educational value

This Luritja man's paint, and the feathers in his hair, might indicate that he has taken part in a ceremony. The feathers are most likely from a black cockatoo, but could also be from a hawk.

Here, the man is demonstrating to Basedow one way of approaching an enemy with boomerang ready and shield in a position to defend himself against a missile like a boomerang or spear. He carries a second boomerang behind the shield for when he has thrown the first. The boomerangs could also be used as a club. The shield is made of a softwood. Its front (exterior) surface - and possibly the inside as well - is engraved with parallel grooves.

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 2009 onwards (except where otherwise indicated).

You may view, display, print out and copy this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.