‘Keeping up the Culture’: Gunai Engagements with Tourism

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Abstract

ABSTRACT This paper intervenes in the hidden history of Aboriginal art in south eastern Australia. I argue that for Aboriginal people living in the assimilation era engagement with tourism represented an important means of cultural survival. Working across anthropology and art history this paper focuses on the boomerangs and other artefacts produced by Gunai in Gippsland, Victoria for their own use and for exchange with tourists. The findings from this paper show that, far from being a sign of commodification and a capitulation to capitalism, this cultural production was carried out in opposition to authorities who viewed it as potentially disruptive and counter to assimilation policies. It was this history of cultural practice which contributed to the resurgence of Koorie culture in the 1970s and 1980s.

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