Entertaining Possession; Re-Enacting Cook's Arrival for the Queen

Publisher:
Routledge
Publication Type:
Chapter
Citation:
Conciliation on Colonial Frontiers; Conflict, Performance and Commemoration in Australia and the Pacific Rim, 2015, 1st, pp. 227 - 243 (16)
Issue Date:
2015
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Entertaining Possession: Re-enacting Cook's Arrival for the Queen In 1970, amid many nationally organised events to remember Captain Cook's passage up the east coast of Australia, a re-enactment of his landing at Botany Bay was held for the visiting Queen Elizabeth and entourage. What was being enacted and what re-enacted was questioned by the arrival of the Royal Party at this event on the Britannia and royal barge. Their landing was another order of re-enactment - adding the legal and regal gloss to a Cookian claim to possession. Indigenous actors playing 'hostile natives' threw stones and spears while white actors strode ashore after shots were fired and went on to claim Australia before the Queen. Clearly Cook's own account was not being used to script this 'entertainment'. As a performance of unlawful possession, of practicing a forgetting of Indigenous sovereignty and original opposition, this piece of public relations was meant to settle the population both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Instead this conciliation to British rule and non-Indigenous control was a fragmented and fraught performance that revealed the tensions between a managed historical act and the labile possibilities of a live re-enactment.
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