Early Modern Encounters, Objects and Emotions 2011-2014

This project analyses early modern encounters, objects and emotions in history as well as their presentation in modern museological, heritage and tourism environments. Key aspects examined are early modern networks and exchange of peoples and objects within the Indian Ocean and on the Australian coast and the feelings generated in these encounters.

Early Modern Encounters, Objects and Emotions" 2011-2014

An important research priority for our Centre is to understand, and enable all Australians to appreciate better, both emotions in the past and Australia's strong emotional investment in our Europeam heritage.  In this fascinating history the first points of contact between Europeans and Australasia are crucial. The Zest Festival, celebrating the 300th anniversary of the wreck of the Zuytdorp in 2012, and the 400th anniversary of the landing of Dirk Hartog in 2016, celebrates just these occasions.

When the Dutch and South African survivors of the Zuytdorp shipwreck struggled ashore at Shark Bay in 1712 to meet the local indigenous people they unwittingly started a centuries-long process of contacts, clashes, negotiations, co-operations and compromises between Europeans and Australians.  What emotional understanding did they bring with them? What expectations did they impose on Indigenous and Asian peoples, and what did they learn from them? What are the emotional traces of those early contacts today? The Zest Festival enables us all to focus together on these questions to bring to light new discussions about European / Australian relationships, to see our history with fresh eyes, and to share our heritage with the whole community.

CHE's partnership in the Festival aims to enrich the cultural lives of country West Australians by providing them with a glimpse of a significant collision between two worlds - European and Indigenous Australian - and igniting new interpretations of history as well as a different look at the town's heritage.

In 2012, the Zest Festival included a 'Still Life/Our Life' exhibition exploring the life of the Dutch in the 17th and 18th centuries alongside life in Kalbarri today.   Contemporary creative works by Kalbarri local artists that reflect the modern Australian life - domestic or exotic - were exhibited in conjunction with images of Dutch still life paintings and Dutch 17th century objects from the Western Australian Museum's shipwreck collections. 

In 2013, the Festival cast its eye over the ocean to Cape Town in South Africa – a critical place for sailors to rest, restock and re-man their vessels. Kalbarri  explored its cultural connections to the Cape and celebrated these through dance, movement, art, music, performance, food and adventure.  Click here for a snapshop of the 2013 Festival.

In 2014, the Festival focused on colour and textiles, religions and philosophies and the important rituals in life from birth, death, marriage and the coming of age  in Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka. It explored the precious cargoes of dyes and textiles traded by the VOC and how these new products impacted on Europe. Who made these dyes and textiles, what did they mean in daily life and how did the new trade affect their lives’?

In 2015, the Festival theme 'Taste and Desire: The Power of the Beautiful', examined the cultures of China and Japan, focusing on the human desire for new and beautiful things and the emotions surrounding them, exploring the role of tea ceremonies, origami arts, bonsai, and the crafting of fine objects and how the history of Dutch trade of these objects influenced the aesthetics and desires of Europe.

In 2016, the Festival's theme was 'Endracht: Unity, Accepting a World of Difference', a melting pot of cultures connected to the Dutch VOC trade within the Indian Ocean Rim, celebrating the youthful energy of young sailors, explorers and women of the era who waited for their loved ones, received the attention of sailors or stepped onto a boat and had the spirit to travel to foreign lands. The Festival recognised their contributions to Australian society today and the human qualities which opened up new possibilities and connections to the world.