Cultural Precinct

Through the Kunai Grass: Portraits of the New Guinea Highlands 1951 – 53

Further Information

  • UWA Centenary
Feathered head dress worn by Highlands man. [WU35207]

This exhibition showcases the work of Ronald and Catherine Berndt while they travelled to Papua New Guinea in 1951.

Genre: Exhibition

Where: Holmes à Court Gallery, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery

When: 7pm - 10pm, Friday 8 February 2013

Duration: Continuous until 1 June 2013


The exhibition

Ronald Berndt was the Foundation Professor of Anthropology, arriving at the University in 1957; he was appointed Professor on the establishment of the Department in 1963, the same year in which he and his wife Catherine founded the international journal of Anthropology and Comparative Sociology, Anthropological Forum.

The Berndts were among the first white outsiders to enter the high mountain valleys of the Eastern Highlands region. The dense forest, which impeded their ten-day trek, was broken by broad swathes of two metre high kunai grass across the Highland valleys, where villages such as Kainantu were located.

These portraits of local people were taken on a small Leica camera, using precious Kodachrome I film, unobtainable in Australia in the immediate post-War era, but supplied to the Berndts by Margaret Mead at the American Museum of Natural History, New York.

The Museum is currently developing linkages with the National Museum at Port Moresby and the National University of Papua New Guinea, to send this exhibition to the Highlands.

For more information on this exhibition or the work of the Berndts, visit the Berndt Museum website.



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