Colgate Gives 119 Indigenous Artworks to Western Australia’s Curtin University


Tuesday night — or Wednesday morning, for those of you in Australia — New York’s Colgate University and Curtin University in Perth, Australia, announced that the former was giving the latter some 119 pieces of Indigenous Australian art. The works, which were given to Colgate by alum and New York-based art collector Herbert Mayer in 1966, include paintings and drawings from the Carrolup Native School and Settlement in Western Australia’s southwest, and were created by Noongar children of the so-called “Stolen Generations” — Aboriginal Australians who were forcibly separated from their families by the Australian government beginning in 1909 until the 1970s.

Mayer purchased the pieces from Florence Rutter, one of the Carrolup School’s main benefactors. They were later the subject of an exhibition at Colgate’s Picker Art Gallery in 2005. They depict scenes of everyday cultural activity, landscapes, and animals, among other subjects, and have been the subject of ongoing joint studies by students and faculty from Colgate and Curtin.

“The relocation of the art will allow both the conservation and exhibition of the work for future generations of Noongar people and others in Western Australia,” Colgate geography professor Ellen Percy Kraly, who initiated the talks that lead to the gift, said in a statement. “The work has so much meaning in country that it deserves to be within the hearts, souls, and eyes of the people.”

— Benjamin Sutton

(Image: Parnell Dempster, “Down to Drink,” ca. 1949. Gift of Herbert Mayer ’29. Photo Credit: Colgate University.)