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Aborigines of the Sea Coast (1948)


In 1948 a film crew made an ethnographic record of the Indigenous population of the coast of Arnhem Land, sponsored by National Geographic, the Smithsonian Institute of America and the Commonwealth of Australia.

Curator’s notes

Indigenous people had lived in the area for thousands of years, influenced only by the periodical visit of Macassan trepang (sea slug) traders from Indonesia after the 17th century. These traders from Indonesia introduced metal tools which the Aborigines used for hunting and in particular for building their canoes.

Men from far northern Arnhem Land and its sea coast hunt for their daily food. If the hunt is unsuccessful they go without food. Hunting is a highly skilled activity intricately orchestrated according to the season. For example, when the wild asparagus shoots appear it is time to go and hunt the stingray because it is the time when the liver on the stingray is fat. Fat is highly desirable in their diet. Children are taught about hunting by drawing images in the sand or on bark paintings.