Tribal Abduction


Tribal Abduction

Harold Thomas (Bundoo)

On loan to Charles Darwin University by Paspalis Group of Companies

Tribal Abduction was the winning artwork of the 33rd National and Torres Strait Islander Art Award in 2016.


Set in the wide expanse of outback Australia, Tribal Abduction depicts a dramatic and violent encounter between an Aboriginal family and representatives of the Australian Government as the latter attempt to forcibly remove the young children from their tribal home.

From 1910-1970, various government policies were implemented in Australia to assimilate Aboriginal people into European ‘white’ society. To assist this process, policies focussed on actively removing children from their biological families and raising them within institutions or alternative care. Those generations of children are now collectively known as the Stolen Generations.

The trauma suffered by the Stolen Generations is a subject close to the heart of the artist, Darwin-based Harold Thomas (Bundoo). A descendant of the Luritja and Wambai people, Thomas was taken from his family when he was seven years old and placed in an institution for Aboriginal boys, and later fostered to a family in Adelaide. After winning a scholarship to study at the South Australian School of Art, he graduated in 1970 becoming the first Aboriginal person to do so. He is perhaps best known as the designer of the Aboriginal flag.

Inspired by the tonal palette and dynamic figurative compositions associated with 18th century Romantic art, Thomas has rendered the scene in Tribal Abduction as dichotomies of light and dark, good and evil. The cluster of figures in the foreground blur into shadow as a nun waits expectantly at the periphery, her white cloth poised to wrap the baby.