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Record Image

Registration Number: EH810

Name or Title: Photograph

Classification: CH classification PHOTOGRAPHS Group
CH classification ARMS & ARMOUR WEAPONS

Brief Description: Photograph - black and white portrait of 24 Malanbarra and Yidinji people at Bellenden Ker, some holding shields, swords and spears. One corner of image is missing.

Collection: Aboriginal Studies

Production Place: Bellenden Ker/North/Queensland/Australia

Production Date: 1890-1899

Materials: Photographic paper

Measurement : L180 x W240 mm (corner separated)

State/Province: Queensland

Country: Australia

Signature/Marks: Bellenden-Ker Blacks
Bellenden-Ker tribe 20 years ago

History and Use: The people in this photograph are the Malanbarra Yidinji people whose country extended from the tablelands around the Mt Bellenden Ker area. The shields they carry are called Begon. The shield third from left is the ‘butterfly’ design, fourth from left is the larvae stage of a local grub and the shield held by the children at the front is a pond skater design.

Rainforest people are best known for their shields and swords, which distinguish them from all other Indigenous language groups. Their swords were often the same height as the men, and required great strength and skill to wield them effectively. The swords were traditionally made from hardwood, not generally decorated, and were used in combat up until the last remaining people were relocated to the Mona Mona, Yarrabah and Palm Island missions in the 1930s. The shields were cut from the buttress roots of native fig trees that, being soft, were easily carved into an asymmetric shape. After shaping the shields, the men would paint them with rich ochre colours using abstract designs that represented both animal and plant totems of importance.

Uploaded to the Web 27 May 2011.

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