Marking the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook's departure on the first of his three epic voyages to the Pacific, this series looks afresh at the exploration and colonisation that followed through the explosive encounter between European and indigenous Oceanic art.
In this first episode, Art historian Dr James Fox tells the story of Australia's indigenous culture, the oldest continuous culture anywhere in the world and the disaster of its contact with the West. He traces how Aboriginal peoples were almost destroyed by the devastating impact of European colonisation but held on to their art to survive, to flourish and, ultimately, to share their extraordinary culture with the world.
James Fox begins his story by exploring the breathtaking ancient rock art of Arnhem Land, Northern Australia, depictions of fish and animals in a highly sophisticated 'x-ray' style developed and honed over 8,000 years. The arrival of Captain Cook in Botany Bay, he argues, changed everything. Over the following centuries Aboriginal peoples were destroyed or marginalised as the new nation of Australia developed.
Yet, in the 20th Century, through works such as the exquisite watercolour landscapes of Albert Namatjira or the instantly recognisable dot painting style of the Western desert, art has enabled Aboriginal people to re-imagine an Australia of their own. Australia might long have been colonised but, James Fox argues, Aboriginal people are taking it back with their minds.
BBC Four - 10 September - 9pm to 10pm
Art and the Pacific