Long-Lost Indigenous Sculptures

Living TapestryFirst Nations

The University of Queensland Anthropology Museum is currently hosting a remarkable exhibition that you won’t want to miss. Titled Voices of Our Elders: Aboriginal Storytellers, this exhibition unveils three long-lost Indigenous sculptures, bringing them together for the first time in 90 years. This unique display not only celebrates the artistry of Aboriginal culture but also provides a profound narrative of history and reconciliation.

An Historic Reunion

The exhibition features three intricate sculptures carved by Fred Embrey, a notable Elder from the Cherbourg Aboriginal settlement in Southern Queensland. These sculptures, depicting the mischievous guardian spirits known as Djan’djari, are a significant part of Kabi Kabi cultural heritage. Until recently, only two of these sculptures were known to the descendants of Fred Embrey. The third sculpture, discovered and acquired by the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) in 2020, has completed this historic reunion.
The mission to reunite these sculptures was spearheaded by the Fred Embrey Research Project, a collaborative initiative between UQ and QAGOMA. Thanks to the support of Queensland Museum and QAGOMA, these precious artefacts are now on public display together, offering visitors a rare glimpse into a vital piece of Indigenous heritage.

Voices of Our Elders

Curated by Mandana Mapar, the exhibition highlights the contributions of 30 Aboriginal individuals who have played crucial roles in preserving and documenting Indigenous history and culture. Among these figures are Paul Ambrose Tripcony, an Indigenous historian who has donated numerous works to UQ, and Willie Mackenzie, the first Aboriginal person employed at the university.
The exhibition is anchored by photographs and short biographies, providing visitors with a deeper understanding of the lives and legacies of these significant individuals. As curator Mandana Mapar notes, this is a rare opportunity to connect with the stories of those who have passed away but whose contributions continue to resonate.

A Story of Reconciliation

Fred Embrey’s great-granddaughter, Beverley Hand, eloquently expresses the significance of this reunion: “This is how reconciliation works – these pieces have a shared history and demonstrate how things can move forward together.” The carvings, infused with traditional ochres, feathers, and string, embody the spirit and culture of their origin, making this exhibition a powerful testament to reconciliation and cultural preservation.

Voices of Our Elders Exhibition UQ AnthMuseum _1080

Plan Your Visit

Voices of Our Elders: Aboriginal Storytellers runs until 29th November 2024 at the UQ Anthropology Museum. Don’t miss this opportunity to explore these extraordinary works of art and learn about the rich cultural heritage they represent.

Please note:

The Anthropology Museum open by appointment only for a brief period from 17 June – 5 July. Please email anthmuseum@uq.edu.au to book a visit or contact staff directly for enquiries.

Whether you are a history enthusiast, an art lover, or someone interested in the stories that shape our world, this exhibition offers something truly special. Join us in celebrating the voices of our Elders and the enduring legacy of Aboriginal storytellers.