Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Drawn And Pale

WHEN Eric Jolliffe is remembered at all these days, it is as a minor bush artist and cartoonist for the long-gone Pix magazine, a slightly racier rival to Australasian Post, also no longer at the newsagent. Times and sensitivities have changed so much it comes as something of a shock to unearth samples of the sketcher's handiwork, like the cartoon below, which probably dates from the Fifties or Sixties. If Joliffe was thought shocking in those primmer times, it was mostly for his pert-breasted cheesecake, not his racist and chocolate cheesecake. (follow the link to see this and other full-size Jolliffe cartoons).

"I'll have to reduce or nothing I've got'll fit me!"

A minor figure in what the academy is even now making a major discipline, the depiction of Aboriginality, Jolliffe might be worth  a dissertation or two at most, and then only at LaTrobe.  There is another side to Jolliffe, however, one that came to light only with today's re-publication by Andrew Bolt of a young doctor's biographical profile. It seems Jolliffe was also something of a seer and prophet. Judging by the caption and the pair of proto-hippies coming over the rise, the below cartoon must have been sketched not long before the 1967 referendum.

 "When we get a job, a vote and are civilised -- will we have to look like that"
(Again, apologies for the cartoons' size. For some reason Blogger cannot render them large as the originals)

Well here we are, forty-plus years on, and Aborigines really can "look like that" -- right down to striking all but administrators of grants and scholarships (and Federal Court judges) as being entirely white.

"Leila was admitted to medicine as part of the indigenous program."

And Witchetty's Tribe?  It is true they now have the vote, but they're still black, still in the bush, still jobless -- and still regarded by too many patronising and civilised eyes as little more than caricatures. It is a cruel joke, one that makes the dated innocence of Jolliffe's bad taste seem as nothing at all.


  1. Ah yes the pale-skinned ones. Don't know if Ms Hardcastle is indigenous or just a project officer for indigenous issues but Jumbanna is home of Larissa isn't it?


  2. Hey, you think I could get clearance to immigrate if I claimed to be an aboriginal?

  3. I remember as a schoolboy fondly sitting on an outside dunny next to a stack of Pix magazines admiring the draftsmanship of Jolliffe's cartoons. Professor, do you think one of our national galleries will ever put on a retrospective show of his work?

  4. PhillipGeorge(c)2011October 25, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    Prof, I think good Socratean teaching may ask and leave unanswered more questions than it answers.
    Napoleon Chagnon, emeritus professor of anthropology, lived with and reported on the Yanomamö; among the last 'first contact' people on earth. Controversy [surprise, surprise] surrounds his papers. He estimates up to 40% of adult males had been involved with tribal warfare killings - not-driven by competition for scarce resources - rather feuds involving rape and the taking of women.

    Bloody savages? No, I don't think so - just humans. Why be prejudiced? People with a violent history and a lot of blood on their hands - yes. The story has a lot in it; including a fellow career anthropologist who marries a 14y.o. native girl. Another anthropologist who brings 'young boy' pedophilia in with him. Competing interests from 'protectionist' missionaries, social justice revisionist writers, mineral and forest raping industrialists. etc. etc. Immunization studies negligently run; introduced epidemics that decimate.

    Cartoons of attractively curved young aboriginal women are as real and true to our history as anything else. Intermarriage and its semi suppressed secret history should be as celebrated as anything else. Bloody tribal wars and superstitions are there in the mix. Money motives, idealism, romantic projection - its all there.

    Anyway, Dr Leila would look good in a loincloth - but she might not be available for a few blankets and axes. Who owns her? Sharpen your spear.

  5. "the dated innocence of Jolliffe's bad taste seem as nothing at all."
    With all due respect Professor, Innocence is never in bad taste. Jolliffe was a creation of his times, not ours. If we start judging all other cultures by our own yardsticks, then we run the risk of being judged in turn. And perhaps by people who have no problem in finding fault with ours.

  6. By Jingo, Bunyip, you will have offended some precious folk with that post. Can't have that, you know. Offending certain folk is against the law.

  7. Recalling from the early 1950's that my 7 or 8 year old's impression of Aborigines, formed by Perth school classes about food finding, shelter building, tools and ceremonies (including painting ourselves up for a class corroboree) and reading Frank Dalby Davison's "Children of the Dark People", was of people of great resourcefulness, amazing survival skills and a sense of their surrounding universe very different to my own, but with similar emotions. Witchetty's Tribe added a great sense of humour to that picture.
    It is impossible to view Eric's sensitive and observant individual full portraits of the Aboriginals he lived and worked with and not see his respect. I had to go to the US at age 9 to learn what racism was.
    I still remember Jolliffe as an Australian Carl Giles; their lives and careers run parallel.

    I hope Andrew's addition of the Seal photo update does not get him a defamation suit. The publicity bio on Dr. Usher at Newcastle Univ. http://www.newcastle.edu.au/what-can-i-study/news-and-events/apr11/medical-graduates-giving-back.html notes that she carried the extra load of conceiving (with an unnamed partner) and delivering her own children during both the first and fourth year of her Bachelor of Medicine degree.

    I am puzzled by the University's Evidence of Aboriginality form which she filled out: http://www.newcastle.edu.au/Resources/Divisions/Academic/English%20Language%20and%20Foundation%20Studies%20Centre/2011-evidence-of-aboriginality-form.pdf
    as it asks for what purpose you are claiming Aboriginality; Admission? Scholarship? or Employment? I would have thought the status was independent of purpose. Are there differing requirements or different degrees required?