CRACKS IN THE MASK

Frances Calvert
Germany 1997 | 57 Min. | 35 mm, OmU
Q&A with: Frances Calvert

»Back then, the white man came, saw… and col­lect­ed«.
A cen­tu­ry ago the Torres Strait Islands in far north Aus­tralia were the famous sub­jects of the Cam­bridge Anthro­po­log­i­cal Expe­di­tion; yet the result­ing deple­tion of their cul­tur­al arte­facts left them with noth­ing but a his­to­ry of remem­bered loss. The only people in the Pacif­ic to make elab­o­rate turtleshell masks have none left; they are all in for­eign muse­ums. In a quest to reclaim the past, Ephraim Bani, a wise and knowl­edge­able Torres Strait Islander, trav­els with his wife to the great muse­ums of Europe where his her­itage lies. In her farewell a shop assis­tant express­es the long­ing of all Islanders: » So not only our chil­dren but also the older gen­er­a­tions will see the masks that were taken away so long ago.« In Europe, Bani soon realis­es that the arte­facts made by his ances­tors have under­gone a trans­for­ma­tion as museum dis­plays. Through his eyes, the museum is sub­ject­ed to a novel form of scruti­ny.