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Indigenous Archives: The Making and Unmaking of Aboriginal Art
Edited by Darren Jorgensen and Ian McLean
In recording and ordering documents considered important, the archive is a source of power. It takes control of the past, deciding which voices will be heard and which won’t, how they will be heard and for what purposes. Indigenous communities understood the power of the archive well before the European Enlightenment arrived and began archiving them. For them colonialism has been a struggle over archives as much as anything else.
The eighteen essays by twenty authors, seven of whom are Indigenous, investigate different aspects of this struggle in Australia, from Indigenous uses of traditional archives and the development of new ones to the deconstruction and appropriation of European archives by contemporary artists as acts of cultural empowerment. It also examines the uses of archives often developed for other reasons as a means to reconstruct the lives artists and the meanings of their art, such as the use of rainfall records to interpret early Papunya paintings. Indigenous Archives is the first overview examining the role of archives in the production and understanding of Indigenous culture. Wide-ranging in its scope, it reveals the lively state of research into Indigenous histories and culture in Australia.