“Australia’s pristine wilderness”

A caricature pokes fun at Colin Ross and the travel film’s routine production of ethnographic spectacle.

“Children, this still doesn’t work at all!”, reads the caption to a drawing of Aborigines dancing in exotic costuming: “And in four weeks, Colin Ross will come to film us!” Rather aptly, this cartoon anticipates the businesslike tone that Ross himself would affect when recounting his experiences shooting Aborigine ritual dance (see: The business of shooting a ritual dance).

This caricature appeared in the pages of the humorous weekly Fliegende Blätter in early January 1929, when Ross was still aboard his ship to Australia. Reacting to early announcements of his coming trip , this item demonstrates Ross’s popularity among a German mass readership (see: Announcing an Australasian adventure). It assumes that this audience is familiar with, even tired of, the stereotypical packaging of faraway places and peoples as authentic attractions. While Ross certainly partook of tropes like the presentation of “pristine primitive cultures” in his writing and filmmaking, he fashioned himself as an innovative alternative in the crowded marketplace for travel media with some of his strategies: the foregrounding of himself and his family, the emphasis on the political and economic here-and-now, and Germany’s stake, but also his early and ambitious use of sound in Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien! (1930).

Joachim Schätz

Anonymous. Die unberührte Wildnis Australiens. Fliegende Blätter. 1929 Jan 3;Jg. 85(170):74.

Topic: Indigenous peoples
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

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