Ochre and Rust takes Aboriginal artefacts from their museum shelves and traces their stories, revealing charged and nuanced moments of encounter in Australia's frontier history. Philip Jones positions them at the centre of these gripping, poignant tales which transport the reader into the heart of Australia's frontier zone.
This book explores that Australian frontier through chapters centred on particular objects from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. Ochre and Rust researches the thesis that the European-Aboriginal Frontier was a remarkably complex zone of encounter, rather than a stark line of combat and racial conflict. It tells the stories of frontier encounters, both violent and peaceful, with each chapter relating to an object, photo or archival document on which the story turns.
Some examples of this: At her Ooldea camp Daisy Bates placed herself on the very edge of two cultures, heightening the sense of difference through her own anachronistic, Edwardian demeanour, dispensing rags to desert nomads. It was hardly surprising then, that her most extraordinary ethnographic acquisitions -sculptural forms of the Rainbow Snake, ganbi -should come in their own cast-off, European garb.
Albert Namatjira's Jesus plaque is a reminder of the inversion which the Australian frontier could impose as colonisation gave way to decolonisation. With its ambiguous form and Christian iconography, this object reflects that shift.
Insightful and innovative -a landmark study of culture contact.- Professor John Mulvaney.
Dr Philip Jones is an historian interested in the history of the frontier, and in the artistic and cultural activity engendered by it. He was a contributor to Peter Sutton's Dreamings, the Art of Aboriginal Australia, the standard text on the subject. Philip designed the concept for the South Australian Museum's Aboriginal Cultures Gallery, which houses the world's largest collection of Australian Aboriginal artefacts. He also chairs the National Cultural Heritage Committee.
Written by Philip Jones, the book @ $49.95 is available from