Golf was 'imposed' on colonies by empire builders raiding local materials

Cricket also connected to imperial 'exploitation', exhibition argues

Gutta percha and rubber-core golf balls. Getty Images
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Golf and cricket were imposed around the world by the builders of the British Empire, who raided colonies for raw material, according to a new exhibition at the birthplace of golf.

The exhibition at St Andrews University in Scotland highlights how colonial materials were used to make equipment for the sports played by empire builders.

“This exhibition is the result of a lot of careful thinking and consultation about how we tackle the colonial legacies in our collection,” said Dr Catherine Eagleton, director of libraries and museums at the university.

“It’s an attempt to explore these stories publicly and trial new ways of telling them, with the voices of those who have often been excluded at the forefront.”

Golf and cricket were connected to imperial exploitation because of the way material was used for bats and balls, according to display information at the University of St Andrews exhibition.

The exhibition, which is part of a review exploring the legacies of empire, says that sports were imposed on colonies.

Display information reads: “By recreating and imposing British sports in colonised countries, golf and cricket were spread around the world.

“Natural resources from colonised countries were exploited to make sporting equipment.

“Gutta percha, a natural rubber material found in trees native to South-East Asia, was harvested to make golf balls for the European market.”

The Re-Collecting Empire exhibition presents objects from the university’s collections alongside perspectives of individuals to help improve understanding of the countries and cultures from which the items came.

It includes a copy of the Quran that once belonged to the Sultan of Mysore, a Tibetan stone, a Chinese bell used in sacred ceremonies and a statue of a Buddhist monk.

Re-collecting Empire is funded by Museums Galleries Scotland and is a collaboration with Dr Emma Bond, an expert in re-assessing colonial legacies.

“The Re-collecting Empire exhibition opens at a time when museums and galleries across the UK and beyond are rethinking how best to care for objects in their collections that were acquired during periods of colonial rule,” Dr Bond said.

“Multiple voices must be involved in these important conversations in order for museums to be able to move forward in more equitable ways.”

Visitors to the exhibition are encouraged to participate in the discussion by creating their own object labels, commenting on the labels in the exhibition and sharing their feedback.

Updated: August 26, 2022, 1:21 PM