Anthropocene: Linking past and present to shape a better future

20 February – 15 December 2023

In recent decades there has been increasing awareness and alarm about the consequences of human actions on our collective future. Human-caused extinctions, sea-level rise and habitat fragmentation threatens countless species and critical ecosystems that support all human societies. The scale of these transformations has led some to refer to this era as the Anthropocene, the geological epoch in which humans play a dominant role in shaping the Earth system.

Over hundreds of thousands of years, humans have experimented with an extraordinary array of subsistence practices, economies and socio-political systems. One of the defining features of our species is our ability to access information about these earlier lifeways, and to learn from our past.

Makers unrecorded | Fish hooks and fish trap | Photo from Carl Warner

The deep time history of this country shows First Nations communities prospering in a climatically changeable continent for tens of thousands of years. This occurred through the extremes of the last ice-age and the reshaping of Australia as sea-levels rose by more than one hundred metres. This exhibition draws upon the UQ Anthropology Museum collection and considers these transformations alongside recent research, to challenge and expand ideas around heritage protection, biodiversity loss and the impacts of climate change on cultural practices.

Presenting collaborative models of academic research informed by traditional cultural knowledge drawn from UQ research and First Nations community-led initiatives. Featuring works from Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands, Fiji, Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands, and artwork by Quandamooka artist Megan Cope, voices of Dunghutti elders from the Macleay Valley region and a video of cultural fire practices carried out on Dja Dja Wurrung country.

Marshall Bell, East Coast 1, 2012
Marshall Bell, East Coast 1, 2012
Courtesy Rosemary Bell
Photo Mick Richards
















Artists featured:
Marshall Bell
Megan Cope
Nora Walytjaka Holland
Kunmanara (Niningka) Lewis
Naata Nungurrayi
Ningura Napurrula
Tjunkaya Tapaya
Barrupu Yunupingu
Ray Troll

Film and animated footage:
Miriam Alexander (animated intro)
Dja Dja Wurrung (Djandak Wi) 2022
Dunghutti/Thunghutti, Macleay Valley interviews 2022-2023
Likanantay Environmental Science and Lithium Mining, Salar de Atacama | Atacama Saltpan 2023

Banner image: Megan Cope, Kinyingarra Guwinyanba, 2022. Photography by Cian Sanders. Courtesy of Megan Cope and Milani Gallery, Meanjin / Brisbane.