Aboriginal art on a car? How an Indigenous artist and an adventurer met in the 1930 wet season in Kakadu.

Joakim Goldhahn, Paul S.C. Tacon, Sally K. May

    Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle in specialist publication


    Inspired by an intriguing photograph of a painted Bean car with
    Aboriginal designs, this paper explores the cross-cultural encounter
    between the renowned adventurer Francis Birtles (1881–1941)
    and Aboriginal artist Nayombolmi (c. 1895–1967). Meeting by
    chance during one of Birtles’ overland explorations by motorcar
    and one of Nayombolmi’s annual walking route journeys, the two
    men came together in an area that would become synonymous
    with the Imarlkba gold mine in present day Kakadu National Park.
    Their acquaintance, based on mutual needs and curiosity, provides
    a rare insight into cross-cultural colonial relationships in this
    frontier region. Beginning in 1929 their interactions continued
    intermittently as the Birtles-initiated Imarlkba gold mine developed
    and Badmardi people (and others) joined the workforce. By
    revisiting the well-known photograph of Birtles’ painted Bean car,
    this paper uses a variety of sources, most notably old and new
    oral history recordings, to investigate Aboriginal histories and
    colonial cross-cultural engagements in remote northern Australia,
    and how newly introduced technologies and material culture
    could be charged with new meanings.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages3
    Specialist publicationThe Conversation
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2021


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