Curbing travel’s erotic charge

Hanuabada, November 1929

Entranced, Ross watches bare-breasted teenage girls playing cricket. But his children are nearby to downplay the eroticism of the scene.

While visiting the Papua New Guinea’ natives settlement of Hanuabada, Colin Ross watches a local cricket club in action. Its members are teenage girls dressed in the grass skirts the colonial government has obliged the settlement’s natives to wear. Ross’s extended description of the young women plays on the strong travelogue tradition of eroticizing indigenous women, cloaking prurient interest in  the  language of aesthetic enjoyment and athletics. When the ball was hit, “the grass skirts swung up and protruded almost horizontally,  as when a ballet dancer does a difficult pirouette”, and when they ran across the playing field, “the lovely firm breasts jumped like balls”. [p. 135] Some of that cricket playing can be seen in Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien! (1930), an example–one of manyof the latitude the filmed travelogue was allowed to show female nudity on the  screen, in Germany as well as the US.

But Ross abruptly switches gear for the second half of the chapter: He is still entranced as he photographs the young women. “Only my children start to get bored.” [p. 137] This matter-of-fact acknowledgment of his children’s presence manages to deflate the obvious erotic fascination. Ross switches to a description of what the two are up to: Renate–at 14 not so far removed from the “sweet seventeen” [p. 134] of the cricket players–explores Hanuabada’s town hall, Ralph diligently  barters with indigenous children on the beach. This shift is indicative of the distinctively square and clean take on travel reporting that the Ross family embodied.

Joachim Schätz

Colin Ross. Der Poreporena-Kricket-Klub. In: Haha Whenua - das Land, das ich gesucht. Mit Kind und Kegel durch die Südsee. 4. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1933; 134–9, 144 recto.

Topic: The Ross Family
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

See also


1 See: Dana Binelli. [Excerpt from] Hollywood and the aAttractions of the tTravelogue. In: Jeffrey Ruoff (ed.) Virtual vVoyages. Cinema and tTravel. Durham-London: Duke University Press; 2006; 182.

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