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Ways to end counterfeiting of Indigenous art

Zafar Bhat. Dated: 9/12/2018 10:04:20 AM

Zafar Bhat
Jammu, Sep 11
Ironically, counterfeiting is a crime of our times and one facilitated by modern technologies. It is now easier than ever for the unscrupulous to replicate a product and pass it off as the genuine article.
However, that pottery or painting in cities may not be a carefully handcrafted item. The reality is you may be handling, and unwittingly paying for, something mass produced that owes nothing to Aboriginal heritage. Various galleries provide documentation of a work's provenance as well as its history if it has been sold more than once but, it seems, there are no such safeguards in the tourist-focused arts and crafts industry.
Notably, what makes this crime, and crime it undoubtedly is, even more insidious, is that much Indigenous artwork provides an income stream to small communities that have little opportunity to otherwise achieve some financial independence. The Art Centres have rightly asked a parliamentary committee to look at the possibility of greater protections for artists.
However, a ban on "fake" products would be ideal but let's not try to convince ourselves that there are adequate resources available to police this crime. Efforts to produce a label of authenticity collapsed. A renewed attempt seems to be a more appropriate way forward. High-grade security has recently been introduced into Australia's banknotes with plastic panels, 3D images, holograms and more. It can't be beyond our wit to similarly safeguard Indigenous artworks. Pertinently, then it becomes a matter of educating the public. If you want the real thing, look for the high-tech label. Know then that you are purchasing the genuine article. Without it, what you are buying is merely a trinket. Or worse – tat.


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