King plate

Photography Carl Warner

Photography Carl Warner

Photography Carl Warner

Photography Carl Warner

Photography Carl Warner

Photography Carl Warner

Registration number
15139
Item name
King plate 
Category
Bodywear
 
Indigenous name
 
Maker
Unrecorded  
Associated cultural group
 
Place
Australia > Australia > > >
Map
Collector
Mrs Lillian Bosch 
Acquisition date
May 14, 1973 
Acquisition method
Donated by Mrs Lillian Bosch 
Raw material
bronze
Dimensions
H: 130 mm W: 100 mm L: D: 4 mm Circum:

Description

Bronze king plate that is inscribed “Paddy the first, Gaigan Gaelo” with and emu and kangaroo in each corner.

Research notes

From the UQ Anthropology Museum exhibition 'written on the body' curated by Judy Watson and Diana Young, March - August 2014.

King plates like the ones shown were an imposed role across parts of Aboriginal Australia. During the 19th and into the beginning of the 20th century individual men were chosen as ‘leaders’ so they could act as brokers between Euro-Australians and Indigenous groups. The attempt on the part of pastoral stations and government officials was to create somebody they could deal with in managing the presence of Aboriginal people.

The bronze military style plates were worn around the neck as a badge of significance and varied considerably in size. The smaller one (15139) shown here is unusual in that it appears to have an Aboriginal name of the person inscribed as well as the English name ‘Paddy’. It also has an emu and kangaroo in each corner, these images presumably having been thought appropriate as decoration for the status of an Aboriginal leader.

The larger king plate (7808) shown in the photo is inscribed “His Majesty, King Billy of ‘Balgroo’, April 1880”. The available information about its provenance is minimal but it appears to have originated in the Lake Eyre region.

In current times, such king plates may be regarded with some ambivalence, due to their inappropriate attempt to create leadership based on European ideas of ‘royalty’. Australian Aboriginal culture facilitates achieved leadership rather than ascribed roles such as ‘kings’ or ‘queens’.

Nevertheless, research has established that many Aboriginal people are these days proud of having such a person in their family genealogy, and the king plates themselves are commonly valued highly [Item of the Month written by Professor David Trigger, School of Social Science, March 2013].

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