Selling fake Indigenous art should be illegal, MPs told

Mass-produced, imported works are damaging and exploitative, WA art centres say

The peak body for Aboriginal art centres across Western Australia has called for laws to make it illegal to sell fake Indigenous art.

In a submission to a federal parliamentary committee hearing in Perth, the Aboriginal Art Centre Hub of WA says fake and often imported Aboriginal art causes “significant damage” to Indigenous culture and communities and is exploitative.

“Fake art is stealing, it is the exploitation of Aboriginal culture, peoples and communities,” the hub’s chief executive, Chad Creighton, told the committee.

The community needed to understand that Aboriginal art was linked to land, language and culture, he said.

“When I go into a tourism store and see all these products, and I know that there are hundreds of thousands of tourists coming into the country buying these products that are not genuinely Aboriginal, it does hurt,” he said.

The group is calling for legislative changes to make it illegal to sell fake, mass-produced imported Aboriginal-style art. Often these items don’t credit the ancestral lands the object was produced from or which language group they represent.

The hub’s outgoing chair, Charmaine Green, said the current Indigenous art code, which attempts to promote ethical trading in Aboriginal art, needed to be mandatory and better resourced.

“We cry about it a lot because we have nothing else in Australia to help us and protect us,” she said. “It could be seen as a token in the whole process.”

The group estimated that 85% to 90% of Aboriginal art sold in souvenir shops was fake and imported from overseas.

The committee chaired by the Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis also was also told that Aboriginal art was not only misappropriated from overseas but local non-Indigenous artists were producing pieces designed or influenced by First People’s imagery.

“There is a certain level of stress around being exploited not only from stuff coming from outside of our country but stuff that is happening inside our country,” Green said.

The committee has received more than 140 submissions since August and will hold more public hearings in Broome, Newman and Warmun later this week.


Source: The Guardian

9 Apr 2018