Peter Sutton

Wednesday 6 October 6.00 pm
ICTE Auditorium, Sir Llew Edwards Building

  •  Listen to or download MP3 'Wax and Sex: gender, feelings and the art of Wik people' – Professor Peter Sutton (82 mins) here

In this lecture Peter Sutton unravels ways in which the Wik people’s vivid grasp of natural history, in recent classical culture, was drawn into their emotional experience of their sculptures and artefacts.

Between the wars Ursula McConnel collected a beeswax figurine in the Wik region of Cape York Peninsula. It was said to be a new-born child, but it was also clearly an adult male and indeed a man in a state of some excitement. In the ritual of ‘Trample-the-Hair’, photographed by McConnel, a man wearing a skirt ‘gave birth’ to this wax figure as its mother. His ‘husband’ wore a skirt also. Was it purely accidental that the first-born man in this highly charged ceremony was made of beeswax? Was it mere technology that wax was also the chosen adhesive for hafting stone axes and sealing firestick sheaths?

Peter Sutton is Affiliate Professor, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide and the Division of Anthropology at the South Australian Museum. He is an anthropologist and linguist who has lived and worked with Aboriginal people in remote, urban and rural Australia since 1969. He has assisted with over 50 Indigenous land claim cases. Peter is the author, or editor, of 13 books and has published many papers, mainly in the fields of Aboriginal languages, land tenure, art, history and Indigenous policy. His most recent book is The politics of suffering: Indigenous Australia and the end of the liberal consensus, 2009, for which he was awarded The John Button Prize at the 2010 Melbourne Writers Festival. Peter contributed an essay on ‘Art and Aurukun Cultural History’ for the publication Before Time Today: Reinventing Tradition in Aurukun Aboriginal Art.

The Mayne Centre Lecture is sponsored by Philip Bacon Galleries

Peter Sutton