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More on the Herbert Basedow photographs
Reproduced by Basedow in "The Australian Aboriginal", FW Preece And Sons, Adelaide, 1925, plate XIV/1. Caption reads: 'Arunndta boy practising with toy shield and boomerang.' 1985.0060.2644.001 is a copy film negative produced at the Australian Institute of Anatomy most likely from a print or the original negative which is now presumed lost.
Black and white film negative. Caption: Boy practicing with toy shield and boomerang. Aranda tribe, central Australia.
This is a photograph by Herbert Basedow of a boy standing with a toy shield and boomerang.
Aboriginal children found plenty of ways to have fun, inventing a game using found objects - a rock or tree branch - or playing with a miniature object that an adult might make for them, such as a tiny canoe or digging stick. Here, this Arrernte boy is playing with a boomerang and toy shield made of eucalypt bark with three sticks inserted as handles. He was photographed at Alberga Creek (probably at Todmorden station) between 1920 and 1924. Basedow collected this shield and it is in the National Museum of Australia's collection.
To develop skills they would use as adults, children practised from an early age. To learn fighting skills their parents would make toy weapons. Either these were smaller versions of those adults used, or they were roughly-made substitutes.
Herbert Basedow was a doctor, anthropologist and explorer. From 1903 to 1928 he ventured to remote regions of central and northern Australia - places rarely seen by Australians even today. Aboriginal people often feature in his photographs. Basedow wanted to document Aboriginal cultures as they had been before British colonisation, and often went to some lengths to craft his photographs to appear as such.
This photograph was probably taken during Basedow's third medical relief expedition in central Australia, but could have been 1923 or 1924.