Real vs Fake: Are You Buying Authentic, Indigenous Art?

According to an article in GoodWeekend magazine from the Sydney Morning Herald, the market is currently flooded with mass-produced, Indonesian products masquerading as Indigenous Australian art.

"In tourist shops around the country, visitors are far more likely to buy a boomerang made in Bali than one made here by Indigenous Australians."


"Roughly 80 per cent of all so-called Aboriginal souvenirs we examine in six Surfers Paradise stores that day turns out to be of Indonesian or Chinese origin. Sampling in other parts of the country shows the pattern is nationwide, and that the trade in these cut-price counterfeits – pioneered by a few opportunistic white entrepreneurs in the 1990s – is now a multi-million-dollar industry involving about a dozen wholesalers and thousands of retail outlets across Australia."

"Now, just four months out from the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, industry sources say there's so much fake stuff flooding Australia that genuine Indigenous products are being priced out of the market. Politicians have joined with exasperated Indigenous lobbyists to fight the problem: a federal government inquiry into the complexities of the trade concluded in November, with recommendations expected shortly, and federal independent MP Bob Katter has called for the sale of phony Aboriginal products to be made illegal, however they're labelled.

"If there be one thing that First Australians [should] be allowed to keep and own, it is their own culture," Katter said while introducing a private members' bill on the theme this year, adding, "I'm sick of buying for my kids clapsticks that don't clap, bullroarers that don't roar, boomerangs that don't come back and woomeras that won't mount a spear."

"Since the federally funded Fake Art Harms Culture campaign began last year, relationships within the souvenir industry have come under intense pressure. In March, Aboriginal artist and craft retailer Michael Connolly mounted a bitter attack on the wholesaler he'd dealt with for two decades at Redcliffe on Brisbane's northern fringes. Connolly, proprietor of Dreamtime Kullilla-Art, used his company website to accuse Birubi Art Pty Ltd, and its managing director Ben Wooster, of importing Indonesian-made Aboriginal artifacts "by the container loads" and "steal[ing]" the "livelihood" of Indigenous artists."

To read the full article, click here.

All artefacts on Woodfordia's Traditional Custodians Gallery are authentic, Indigenous art created by the Jinibara people, the Traditional Custodians and Native Title Holders in the Woodford, Queensland region. Please help us continue to create beautiful, cultural pieces by purchasing directly from our online store.

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