Cracks in the Mask

Australia, Germany, Switzerland 1997 | 57 min | engl. subtitled
Sun, 02-Jun-19 10:30 AM

Over the last 100 years, the Torres Strait Islanders in far north Aus­tralia have been the sub­ject of many anthro­po­log­i­cal expe­di­tions. The result­ing deple­tion of their cul­tur­al arte­facts has left them with noth­ing but a his­to­ry of remem­bered loss. The only people in the Pacif­ic to make elab­o­rate turtle shell masks have none left; all their mate­r­i­al cul­ture now resides 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. Ephraim unbur­dens him­self to his diary in moments of poignant rev­e­la­tion: the arte­facts made by his ances­tors have under­gone a trans­for­ma­tion as museum dis­plays. When Ephraim asks for the return of some objects, the result­ing debate expos­es wider ques­tions about con­tem­po­rary museum cul­ture as well as the com­plex­i­ty of inter­na­tion­al and Indige­nous pol­i­tics. They thought it would be easy to talk to the cura­tors about the resti­tu­tion of some objects; but to his mind, muse­ums were in com­pe­ti­tion with each other to own the great­est trea­sures.