Summary

Almost rectangular shaped piece of mulga wood with bark left in place on the two long sides, 'abo' brand made in the 1930s. On the front side are 124 holes used for scoring in the card game of cribbage. The Mulga wood 'Abo' brand was patented by Albert J. Wiley of Adelaide in 1932. A.J. Wiley had owned a woodturning business in Adelaide at least since 1902. By the 1930s Wiley had become a specialist in mulga wood ornaments. Wiley inspired Fred Eaton, camp missionary at Nepabunna to install lathes at the mission in order to teach the Aboriginal people under his care woodturning in 1938.

Physical Description

Almost rectangular shaped piece of mulga wood with bark left in place on the two long sides. On the front side are 124 holes used for scoring in the card game of cribbage. On the reverse is stamped in gold the maker's mark of a map of Australia, missing Tasmania and the face of a bearded Aboriginal man. The right hand edge of the board has a metal plate screwed into it, possibly as a latter addition to hold together a split in the wood.

Significance

The historical significance of this cribbage board is in its brand name which uses the racial slur 'Abo', combining it with an Aboriginal man's head and outline map of Australia as a trademark. Mulga wood, an Australian acacia, was used by Aboriginal people to make boomerangs, spear points and shields. In the early twentieth century the wood became a popular timber for ornaments and souvenirs, such as this cribbage board. The way this particular piece was branded shows an awareness of a new Australian identity after Federation while exploiting Aboriginal imagery and and legitimizing a common racial slur.

The use of images of Aboriginal people and the word 'Abo' has reappeared in a contemporary context with Tourism NT, a Northern Territory government agency who had paid for a sponsored Google link to this slur on the internet until it was removed on May 12, 2010.

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