Colonial Creativity: Constructions of Indigenous Australians in the Age of Modernity

Alyce Nelson


The contemporary context of Australia cannot be understood in isolation from its colonial past. As a powerful force of modernity seeking to defy geographical boundaries and advocate for the progress of man from all empires and local landscapes, colonialism has had a profound impact on even the most organic and timeless modes of thought. The tradition and culture of Indigenous Australian’s have been deeply challenged in regards to their relevance for the modern nation state, predicated on an alternate worldview privileging human populations as objects of examination and control, rather than as the producers of authentic cultural knowledge. Subsequently, this article will critique the construction and relevance of Indigenous tradition and knowledge within Australia’s contemporary postcolonial context. In order to do so, the article will examine the political and cultural paradigms resulting in representations of the colonial subject as primitive and ‘other,’ ultimately enabling British colonial powers to assume hegemony over the local inhabitants and their ideological worldview founded in local tradition. The divide established between traditional knowledge and the modern notion of scientific thought will be addressed in order to expose the marginalisation and silencing of contemporary Indigenous populations due to their intrinsic, spiritual connection to the past. This modern attempt to deny Aborigines contemporaneity will be examined through the physical and contextual setting of Brenda Croft’s Indigenous artwork titled Wuganmagulya, located in Farm Cove in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden. The article will conclude contemporary discourses of urban modernity have resulted in the emergence of commodified forms of Aboriginal tradition that attempt to conceal the cultural waste produced during the context of colonisation.

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