As an American in Australia, it was a chance to learn more about a culture by understanding its cartoons. The exhibition includes cartoons that capture the beginnings of Australia at Botany Bay all the way up to those that comment on current events. Wandering through the galleries, I felt like an anthropologist happening upon dozens of tiny time capsules.
Early cartoons explored Great Britain's relationship with this exotic new land. In the cartoon on the left, British cartoonist John Boyne suggests in 1786 that the planned penal colony would be a fitting home for the Prince of Wales. Notice that the prince wears a jester’s cap and sits on a barrel of tokay, a sweet fortified wine. His mistress and two moneylenders bid him farewell. In one image, Boyne suggests the prince’s crimes: drunkenness and promiscuity with both women and money. In a later cartoon from 1868, William Wyatt memorializes the arrival of an important visitor to Australia. Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, was the first member of the royal family to visit. A bevy of exotic animals greet him, including a kangaroo, wombat, wallaby, and an emu. The British Lion stands behind the prince.
The exhibition was eye-opening. I could definitely do worse than studying cartoons to try to understand a country and its culture.