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Stolen Land, Stolen Culture, Stolen Climate

Protest at BP-sponsored Indigenous Australia exhibition

On 21st April the official media launch of the British Museum’s new BP-sponsored exhibition, “Indigenous Australia: Enduring Civilisation”, was interrupted by an unexpected theatrical protest. A group of “actorvists” from BP or not BP?, dressed as robbers in striped T-shirts and eyemasks, temporarily blocked the exhibition entrance with a banner reading “Stolen Land, Stolen Culture, Stolen Climate” and read out quotes from Aboriginal leaders and activists, in front of a crowd of journalists waiting to get in. The protest highlighted concerns that the British legacy of taking Aboriginal land, objects and resources without permission continues today and is perpetuated by elements of the exhibition and by its sponsor, BP.

BP or not BP?, which seeks an end to oil sponsorship of culture, argues that BP is an inappropriate and insensitive choice of sponsor. The company’s massive contribution to climate change is putting the future of Indigenous communities in Australia and around the world at risk. Furthermore, on the fifth anniversary of the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon spill, the oil giant plans to drill four new ultra-deepwater wells in Australian waters.

Despite consultations with some Aboriginal communities, the British Museum has been strongly criticised by a number of Aboriginal leaders over its refusal to repatriate significant objects featured in the exhibition. A focal point of the controversy has been three rare pieces of bark art crafted by the Dja Dja Wurrung people in central Victoria that the Museum has already taken action to keep after the community tried to get them back. 

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