A new photographic exhibition has opened at the Mount Isa Civic Centre.
University of Queensland researchers have complied an exhibition titled Meston’s Wild Australia Show 1892-1893.
Conceived by controversial entrepreneur Archibald Meston, the original historical Wild Australia Show toured in 1892- 1893 to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and featured a choreographed troupe of 27 Aboriginal people recruited from the frontier in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
The current photographic exhibition based on the original tour was first exhibited at UQ Anthropology Museum in 2015 and two of the researchers, Michael Aird and Professor Paul Memmott went on to develop a larger research project.
Professor Memmott said the original Wild Australia Show in 1892-1893 came at a critical time in colonial history when white settlers perception of Aboriginal people on the frontier was shifting from one of a threatening population justifiable of extermination, to that of a ‘subject people requiring protection.
“Meston’s vision for the Wild Australia Show was to be a demonstration of the superior physique and skills of the “wild” Aboriginal people, presented for the last time because of the theories of that time of their imminent “racial extinction,” Professor Memmott said
Meston planned for the troupe to perform in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, then to Europe and finally to Chicago for the 1893 World Fair.
Professor Memmott said he hoped the travelling exhibition would engage the descendants of troupe members in the recovery of the history of their ancestors and through this to strengthen their connection to their history and heritage.
UQ Anthropology Museum director Michael Aird said they were fortunate to be able to include such a large number of the original historical photographs which have been traded through global networks and are held by museums, libraries and private collections around the world.
“The photographs continue to communicate ideologies about Australian Indigenous people to international audiences,” Mr Aird said.
The photographic exhibit will be on display at the Civic Centre until June 29.
The exhibition will then move to Tennant Creek and Thursday Island and in 2019 the tour is planned for Normanton and Croydon.
These destinations represent the contemporary communities where descendants of the original troupe are likely to reside, Professor Memmott said.