Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Dark Science

The story of an early 20th century expedition to find the 'missing link' with the Indigenous people of Australia.

In 1910, a scientist called Erik Mjöberg led the first Swedish expedition to Australia. An entomologist by trade, Mjöberg’s brief was to document the native wildlife, but his underlying motivation was to explore the idea that Aborigines were the missing link between ape and man. Landing in Derby, Western Australia, he bought supplies, hired a bullock team and set off into the Kimberley with his increasingly fractious team, battling heat and flies until they got their first glimpse of “one of the oldest races in the world - the Australian negroes”.

Describing the Aborigines as “ugly”, “Neanderthal-like” and possessed of an “animalistic cunning”, Mjöberg set about plundering and desecrating their grave sites and smuggling the remains back home—actions that were to have lasting consequences for all concerned.

Shot in remote regions of the Kimberley in Australia and in Stockholm and Varberg Sweden, Dark Science uses diary sources, stunning black and white footage from the expedition and excerpts from Mjöberg’s novel Wings of Poison to provide a shocking glimpse into the mind of early 20th century Western man.

The remains Mjöberg took from the Kimberley were returned to Australia in 2004 by the Swedish Government, the first repatriation of human remains by a major European Museum.


Garth Barker said...

Hi James. It seems with the return of the remains all is done and dusted and I am very glad for my Derby indigenous brothers and sisters. But us whitefellas, have we learnt anything from the story as told here, and are all indigenous people happy? No, because for one there has been recent controversy over relics in the British Museum on display here in Australia in the Encounters Exhibition. A better narrative approach to my mind would be to focus on the curse and Mjoberg's death and that way we can have a paranormal fest yay! as well as a cautionary tale of ongoing white colonial greed. Mjoberg's novel sounds fascinating but has not been translated into English. Did you by any chance have a look at it?

James Barrett said...

hi Garth,

I have searched out "På giftets vingar: sällsamma upplevelser under en medicinförgiftning", (Nordisk rotogravyr, Stockholm, 1934) and it is not cheap to buy, at around $100, but that you say it has never been translated into English is very interesting....Thanks.