Memoirs of the Queensland Museum – Culture 10

Dudley Bulmer’s Artefacts as Autobiography

Wood, M.

Published online: December 2016


Wood, M.


Wood, M. 2016. Dudley Bulmer’s Artefacts as Autobiography. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum – Culture 10: 77-92. Brisbane. ISSN 2205-3220

Date published

December 2016


Key words

Dudley Bulmer, Tindale, artefacts, the Dreaming, autobiography, Yarrabah, North Queensland


During a visit to Yarrabah in 1938, Norman Tindale, then working for the South Australian Museum, collected and documented a number of artefacts given to him by Dudley Bulmer, who was originally from Starcke River, north of Cooktown. This paper uses Tindale’s notes on these artefacts to show how Bulmer sometimes inscribed aspects of himself into his artefacts by combining events from his life with representations of Ancestral beings that were important in ceremony. Partly reflecting the power of the state to restrict his freedom, a feature of Bulmer’s presence in his artefacts is his absence from his homeland. I argue these elements make some of Bulmer’s artefacts inscriptive equivalents to the life story genre of Indigenous writing.

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