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Wild Australia on show at gallery

An image on display as part of the Wild Australia exhibition: Tamarama Beach, December 1892. Photograph by Kerry & Co. Tyrell Collection: Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences.
Wild Australia, on tour from the University of Queensland Anthropology Museum, is currently on show at the Grafton Regional Gallery. This exhibition presents photographs and historical documents relating to a group of Aboriginal people in the 1890s who were taken on a national touring ‘Wild West Show’ by journalist, politician and entrepreneur, Archibald Meston. The ‘Wild Australia Show’ was conceived by Archibald Meston as a travelling troupe of 27 Aboriginal people conscripted from the Queensland frontier. The troupe members came from the Northern Territory, groups from around Normanton, Croydon and Cloncurry as well from Prince of Wales Island in the Torres Strait and from the Mary River region in south-east Queensland. They performed in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne during 1892 and 1893 in preparation for departure on an international tour in the era of world exhibitions. The plans were curtailed by contractual disputes, scandals of financial incompetence and accusations of the capture of certain troupe members against their will in chains. As the troupe travelled around Australia, they were photographed by three leading photographers of the time: Charles Kerry and Henry King in Sydney and John W. Lindt in Melbourne. These photographs are held by museums, libraries and private collections around the world and for the first time more than 100 images have been exhibited together with all the performers’ names. Wild Australia curator, Michael Aird, also a photography specialist, has been interested in these images for a long time, and together with curator Mandana Mapar and researcher Paul Memmott, put together the Wild Australia exhibition as commissioned by Diana Young for the University of Queensland Anthropology Museum in 2014. The exhibition holds special significance for Grafton and the Regional Gallery, as some photographs in the exhibition were taken by John W. Lindt, of whom the gallery holds a significant collection of photographs. Wild Australia is on show at the Grafton Regional Gallery until Saturday, June 10.