Aboriginal rights campaigner from Kew dies, aged 70

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Award-winning: Rikki Shields Award-winning: Rikki Shields

An award-winning writer and Aboriginal rights campaigner has died aged 70.

Rikki Shields, who lived in Kew, was also a filmmaker and photographer who took pictures of his people and land in Australia.

He campaigned successfully for Aboriginal human remains from UK museums and scientific institutions to be repatriated to their homeland, appearing on BBC programme Heart of the Matter in 1990 to talk about the issue.

Mr Shields had many of his poems and photographs published in newspapers and books and he opened the Native Spirit Festival at the Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre, in London, in 2009.

He is survived by his wife Fycsene and his children who attended his funeral on Thursday, August 2, at Our Lady of Loretto and St Winifred’s Church, Kew Gardens.

Mr Shields died on Sunday, June 24. He was born in Katherine, Northern Territory, Australia, in 1942 and grew up at Melville Island Catholic Mission, north of Darwin.

Mr Shields, who left school aged 12, took photos of his people and land in 1985 which inspired notable works, including the film A Journey of the Spirit which won the Golden Knight Award at the Malta International Film Festival and was nominated for the British Film Institute’s Grierson Award.

His work also led to an exhibition called Mantrika, which was shown at London’s Commonwealth Institute in 1989, and was awarded the Axel Poignant Award by the Royal Anthropology Institute.

He passionately believed Aboriginal human remains needed to return to their homeland to receive their traditional burial rites, otherwise ancestors would not be able to fulfil their role as a living force and guide for their descendents.

Mr Shields was the artist in residence at the Third Eye Centre, in Glasgow, during the Tagari Lia: My Family Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal Arts, in 1990.

His collection of writings called Tales from Stanley was written during his time in Europe and explored both the conflicts and harmonies arising from his aboriginality and Germanic origins.

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