DETAIL: Mary MARABAMBA Fish trap No 27 #3017-01 2001 jungle vine, bush string Purchased 2002
 
 The SIBOSADO brothers | Riji: pearl shell ornament depicting Min-nimb, the whale

 
The SIBOSADO brothers
Australia  
Riji: pearl shell ornament depicting Min-nimb, the whale 1988
Decorative Art
Incised object
pearl shell, natural pigments, hair string
BOSTOCK, Euphemia
Australia 1936
Possum skin design 1990
Textile
screenprint on cotton
DIBATU, Jeannie
Australia 1890 – 1978
Bark basket with pattern of vertical stripes 1974
Decorative Art
Sculpture
natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
DJORLAM, Leonie
Australia 1966
Basket
high and round basket with flat base and loose handle, pink and natural bands in weave Cat no: 957W-02 2002
Textile
Interlacing
pandanus, natural dyes
DODO, Big John
Australia 1910 – 2003
Ngura Warngu kungulo
(carved sandstone head) 1990
Sculpture
natural pigments on sandstone
DODO, Big John
Australia 1910 – 2003
Kungulo
[head]
[Kungulo (stone head)]

carved sandstone head 1987
Sculpture
natural pigments on sandstone
ESELI, James
Australia 1929
Headdress: World War II fighter aeroplane
Grey head-dress with white strip at front, and red and white Union Jack on both sides. Grey fighter plane, white propeller, red and white teeth motif, white "F2", red circle with white inside. On tail - red/white union jack with white southern cross, red/ 1996
Sculpture
mixed media
FULLARD, Corrie
Australia  
Shell necklace
223/02 2002
Decorative Art
Jewellery
green maireener shells, black crow shells, thread
GILES (Kerwingie), Kerry
Australia 1959 – 1997
The Piece 1993
Textile
linocut and screenprint, handpainted on cotton
JADBALAG, Mary
Australia 1938
Fish fence 2001
Textile
sand palm fibre, bush string
KALUNBA, Anchor
Australia 1917 – 1996
Mandjabu: Barramundi fish trap c.1979
Object
Fibre object
vine fibre
interlacing
KANTILLA (Kutuwalumi PURAWARRUMPATU), Kitty
Australia 1926 /1930 – Australia 2003
Female figure
Figure with lines of dots on torso and face, brown legs and yellow breast c.1996
Sculpture
natural pigments on iron wood
KEMARR MOORE, Nora
Australia 1949
UTOPIA BATIK
1978
Goofy bore 1982
Decorative Art
Textile
batik on silk
MARABAMBA, Mary
Australia 1938
Fish trap
No 27 #3017-01 2001
Sculpture
Interlacing
jungle vine, bush string
interlacing
MARIKA, Banduk
Australia 1954
Foam bubbles; length of fabric 1987
Textile
screenprint on rayon
MAYNARD, Muriel
Australia 1930
Shell necklace
rye, toothy shells 2002
Decorative Art
Jewellery
rye shells, toothy shells, thread
MUNKARA/DJULABIYANNA, Enraeld
Australia 1895 – 1965
Purrukuparli the ancestral hero, double figure c.1955
Sculpture
natural pigments on ironwood, natural fibre
MUNKARA/DJULABIYANNA, Enraeld
Australia 1895 – 1965
Bima, the ancestral heroine
[Bima the ancestral heroine, carved and painted double figure]
c.1955
Sculpture
natural pigments on ironwood
NAWIRRIDJ, Grace
Australia 1950
String bag
flat coarsely woven bag with bound handle, bands of various colours Cat no: 2891W-02 2002
Textile
Interlacing
bush string, natural dyes
NEWSON, Lennah
Australia 1940
River reed basket 1
Cross stitch and close twining stitch 2002
Textile
Interlacing
river reed
NEWSON, Lennah
Australia 1940
River reed basket 4
wavy open weave with thicker handle 2003
Textile
Interlacing
river reed
NGANJMIRRA (NAMARNYILK), Jill
Australia 1954
Dilly bag
wide neck dilly bag , open weave, loose handles either side Cat no: 1040W-02 2002
Textile
Interlacing
pandanus, natural dyes
NOONUCCAL, Oodgeroo
Australia 1920 – 1993
PERKINS, Rob
Australia 1940
PERKINS, Ivana
Australia 1947
Oysters; length of fabric 1980
Textile
screenprint on cotton
NYINAWANGA, Jeff Campion
Australia 1947
YANGGANINY, Jimmy
Australia 1949 – 1989
Carved and painted dilly bag with sacred bat dropping design 1984
Decorative Art
Woodwork
natural pigments on wood, bush string
PETYARR, Gloria Tamerr
Australia 1938
UTOPIA BATIK
1978
No title
[Fabric length]
c.1983
Decorative Art
Textile
batik on silk
PETYARR, Nancy
Australia 1934
UTOPIA BATIK
1978
Three bores c.1983
Textile
batik on silk
REA
Australia 1962
Resistance (flag) 1996
Textile
nylon
RICHARDSON, Eva
Australia 1937 /1941
Kelp water carrier
Water carrying container made of bull kelp, drawn at edges by tea tree sticks, with bush string handles 2002
Object
bull kelp, tea-tree sticks, bush string
RINYBUMA, Margaret
Australia 1947
GADJAWALA, Michael
Australia 1948
Golbordok (traditional bush honey-collecting bag)
MW89-25 1989
Decorative Art
Textile
natural pigments on pandanus
RINYBUMA, Margaret
Australia 1947
GADJAWALA, Michael
Australia 1948
Golbordok (traditional bush honey-collecting bag)
MW89-26 1989
Decorative Art
Textile
natural pigments on pandanus
RUNGGIWANGA, Laura
Australia 1954
Fish trap
[Weave Exhibition, Northern Editions Maningrida Women's Arts & Culture]
2002
Sculpture
Interlacing
pandanus, natural dyes, bush string
interlacing
THAIDAY SNR., Ken
Australia 1950
Beizam
[shark] dance mask 1991
Sculpture
enamel paint on plastic and plywood, steel wire, dyed feathers, plastic swivel, cockatoo feathers
The SIBOSADO brothers
Australia  
Riji: pearl shell ornament depicting Garril, the tern
pubic cover 1988
Decorative Art
Incised object
pearl shell, natural pigments, hair string
THOMPSON, Christian
Australia 1978
1996-98: Queensland 1998-99: Melbourne
Kangaroo and boomerang jumper
machine knit jumper with extremely long sleeves (blue, beige and white) 2002
Textile
98% acrylic, 2% wool, machine-knit jumper
TIMAEPATUA, Bonaventure
Australia 1928 – 1982
Pukumani basket 1982
Sculpture
natural pigments on eucalyptus bark, natural fibre
TREVORROW, Ellen
Australia 1955
Fish scoop
coil weave scoop form based on circular flat weave mat 1999
Sculpture
Interlacing
woven sedge grass
Ngarrindjeri coiled basketry
UNKNOWN, Artist
 
Riji: pearl shell ornament c.1900
Decorative Art
Incised object
pearl shell, natural pigments
UNKNOWN, Artist
 
Riji: pearl shell ornament
[Pearlshell pendant]

(decorated pearl shell) c.1900
Decorative Art
Incised object
pearl shell, natural pigments, human hair
UNKNOWN, Artist
Australia  
Jawun
[bicornual basket] c.early 20th century
Object
Fibre object
lawyer cane
UNKNOWN, Artist
 
Emu egg with carved decoration depicting a large tree and, a farmer and his two dogs in an altercation with a kangaroo c.1903
Sculpture
emu egg shell
UNKNOWN, Artist
 
Pair of verandah chairs
A pair of arm chairs 1903
Decorative Art
Furniture
hardwood, cabbage tree palm
cabbage tree palm (Livistona australis)
UNKNOWN, Artist
Papua New Guinea  
Basket
Margaret Preston Archives c.1950s
Decorative Art - Archival
Textile
possibly split cane fibre, natural dyes
UNKNOWN, Artist
Australia  
Rainforest shield c.1900
Painting
natural pigments on wood
UNKNOWN, Artist
Australia  
Parrying shield 1800-1803
Decorative Art
Woodwork
natural pigments on wood
UNKNOWN, Artist
Australia  
Shell necklace
AM 243/02 c.1920
Decorative Art
Jewellery
mauve maireener shells, thread
WAMBA, Alice
Australia 1907 – 1975
Bark basket with sun pattern 1974
Sculpture
natural pigments on eucalyptus bark
WILLIAMS, Ronald "Womber"
Australia 1959
Platter c.1992
Decorative Art
Ceramic
porcelain
WILLIAMS, Ronald "Womber"
Australia 1959
Hills & water
[Hills 9 water bowl]

black with brown glaze markings (arcs and circles) c.1992
Decorative Art
Ceramic
porcelain
WOOLLA, Jackson
Australia 1930 – 1998
Figure 1989
Sculpture
natural pigments on wood, natural fibre
WURRKIDJ, Dobie
Australia 1924
Bag
oblong flat but slightly rounded bag with bands of colour, no handle Cat no: 271W02 2002
Object
Fibre object
pandanus, natural dyes
WURRKIDJ, Dobie
Australia 1924
Handbag
orange/brown Cat no: 15-42W-02 2002
Textile
Interlacing
pandanus, natural dyes
UNSPECIFIED
 
Wunda
[shield]
[Shield, engraved with zigzag design Shield with snake design]
pre 1940
Sculpture
natural pigments on wood
YARINKURA, Lena
Australia 1948
Yawkyawk Spirit 1998
Sculpture
paperbark, feathers, natural pigments on pandanus
woven pandanus fibre, painted with natural ochres
YARINKURA, Lena
Australia 1948
Yawkyawk Spirit 1998
Sculpture
paperbark, natural pigments on pandanus
woven fibre
The SIBOSADO brothers
Australia  
Riji: pearl shell ornament depicting Undood, two mating turtles 1988
Decorative Art
Incised object
pearl shell, natural pigments, hair string
The SIBOSADO brothers
Australia  
Riji: pearl shell ornament depicting Udorr, the dugong 1988
Decorative Art
Incised object
pearl shell, natural pigments, hair string
The SIBOSADO brothers
Australia  
Riji: pearl shell ornament depicting Ammildya, the mullet 1988
Decorative Art
Incised object
pearl shell, natural pigments, hair string
The SIBOSADO brothers
Australia  
Riji: pearl shell ornament depicting Dyimmorgamol, the warrior 1988
Decorative Art
Incised object
pearl shell, natural pigments, hair string
The SIBOSADO brothers
Australia  
Riji: pearl shell ornament depicting a dolphin 1988
Decorative Art
Incised object
pearl shell, natural pigments, hair string
The SIBOSADO brothers
Australia  
Riji: pearl shell ornament depicting Ra-indya, the swordfish 1988
Decorative Art
Incised object
pearl shell, natural pigments, hair string
The SIBOSADO brothers
Australia  
Riji: pearl shell ornament depicting Barnamba, the stingray 1988
Decorative Art
Incised object
pearl shell, natural pigments, hair string
The SIBOSADO brothers
Australia  
Riji: pearl shell ornament depicting a boy's initiation
pubic cover 1988
Decorative Art
Incised object
pearl shell, natural pigments, hair string
18.0 (h) x 10.0 (w) x 1.0 (d) cm
329.4 (h) x 102.4 (w) cm
51.0 (h) x 41.8 (w) x 29.0 (d) cm
without handle 27.4 (h) x 23.2 (w) x 22.6 (d) cm
with handle 53.0 (h) x 23.2 (w) x 22.6 (d) cm
37.5 (h) x 20.1 (w) x 15.5 (d) cm
28.0 (h) x 13.0 (w) x 17.5 (d) cm
60.0 (h) x 60.0 (w) x 39.0 (d) cm
circumference 164.0 (h) cm
145.0 (h) x 670.0 (w) cm
107.0 (h) x 332.6 (w) cm
54.6 (h) x 230.0 (w) cm 54.6 cm (diameter)
76.0 (h) x 19.4 (w) x 16.0 (d) cm
92.5 (h) x 200.2 (w) cm
96.4 (h) x 52.0 (w) x 56.0 (d) cm
313.0 (h) x 114.6 (w) cm
circumference 193.0 (h) cm
60.0 (h) x 16.0 (w) x 14.5 (d) cm
53.0 (h) x 14.0 (w) x 12.0 (d) cm
without handle 31.0 (h) x 50.4 (w) x 4.0 (d) cm
with handle 63.0 (h) x 50.4 (w) x 4.0 (d) cm
without handle 18.6 (h) x 20.6 (w) x 20.4 (d) cm
without handle 25.0 (h) x 35.0 (w) x 35.0 (d) cm
without handle 36.0 (h) x 26.0 (w) x 34.0 (d) cm
312.0 (h) x 119.2 (w) cm
33.5 (h) x 15.0 (w) cm
183.5 (h) x 89.2 (w) cm
90.6 (h) x 190.6 (w) cm
600.0 (h) x 200.0 (w) cm
11.6 (h) x 19.8 (w) x 9.8 (d) cm
34.0 (h) x 21.0 (w) x 16.3 (d) cm
34.0 (h) x 18.0 (w) x 14.0 (d) cm
77.0 (h) x 33.0 (w) x 76.0 (d) cm
70.0 (h) x 26.0 (w) x 26.0 (d) cm
17.0 (h) x 12.2 (w) x 1.0 (d) cm
90.0 (h) x 748.5 (w) cm
54.0 (h) x 49.0 (w) x 33.5 (d) cm
21.0 (h) x 30.0 (w) x 62.0 (d) cm
15.0 (h) x 11.2 (w) x 1.0 (d) cm
18.8 (h) x 13.4 (w) x 1.0 (d) cm
48.0 (h) x 43.0 (w) x 36.0 (d) cm
circumference 12.0 (h) x 30.0 (w) cm
87.0 (h) x 66.0 (w) x 63.0 (d) cm
87.0 (h) x 66.0 (w) x 63.0 (d) cm
with handle 24.0 (h) x 59.3 (w) x 33.0 (d) cm
97.0 (h) x 32.0 (w) x 9.5 (d) cm
57.0 (h) x 9.8 (w) x 9.0 (d) cm
circumference 100.0 (h) cm
60.5 (h) x 30.02 (w) x 26.5 (d) cm
6.6 (h) cm 36.6 cm (diameter)
8.4 (h) cm 29.8 cm (diameter)
49.0 (h) x 36.0 (w) x 12.0 (d) cm
16.0 (h) x 34.0 (w) x 6.6 (d) cm
without handle 24.0 (h) x 30.0 (w) cm
with handle 54.0 (h) x 30.0 (w) cm
73.0 (h) x 14.0 (w) x 4.5 (d) cm
210.0 (h) cm
200.0 (h) cm
19.0 (h) x 12.0 (w) x 1.0 (d) cm
17.0 (h) x 11.0 (w) x 1.0 (d) cm
16.0 (h) x 12.0 (w) x 1.0 (d) cm
18.6 (h) x 12.2 (w) x 1.0 (d) cm
19.0 (h) x 12.4 (w) x 1.0 (d) cm
18.0 (h) x 13.0 (w) x 1.0 (d) cm
17.4 (h) x 14.2 (w) x 1.6 (d) cm
16.6 (h) x 13.0 (w) x 1.0 (d) cm
Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1988
NGA 1988.2407
Purchased 1992
NGA 1992.208
© Euphemia Bostock, 1990. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney
Purchased 1984
NGA 1984.3036
Purchased 2003
NGA 2003.274
Purchased 1991
NGA 1991.1306
Purchased 1987
NGA 1987.1550
Purchased 1996
NGA 1996.1097
Purchased 2003
NGA 2003.19
Purchased 1994
NGA 1994.1078
Purchase 2002
NGA 2002.379
Purchased 1991
NGA 1991.740
Purchased 1996
NGA 1996.865
Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1984.
NGA 1984.426
Purchased 2002
NGA 2002.381
Purchased 1990
NGA 1990.553
© Banduk Marika, 1987. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney
Purchased 2002
NGA 2002.334
Purchased 1985
NGA 1985.392
Purchased 1985
NGA 1985.393
Purchased 2003
NGA 2003.272
Purchased 2003
NGA 2003.20
Purchased 2003
NGA 2003.23
Purchased 2003
NGA 2003.279
Purchased 1987
NGA 1987.43
Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1984
NGA 1984.1968
inscribed on: 1. printed Utopia label, pinned to fabric, pen and ink "1961 GLORIA/PITJARA/PURE SILK";
and 2. on white sticky label on printed Utopia label pinned to fabric, blue ballpoint pen "3006"
Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1984.
NGA 1984.429
Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1984.
NGA 1984.427
Collection of the artist
Purchased 2003
NGA 2003.14
Purchased 1989
NGA 1989.1823
Purchased 1989
NGA 1989.1824
Purchased 2002
NGA 2002.380
Purchased 1991
NGA 1991.845
Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1988
NGA 1988.2406
Purchased 2002
NGA 2002.140
Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1983
NGA 1983.3200
Purchased 1999
NGA 1999.88
Gift of Thomas William and Pamela Joyce (Joy) Falconer, Canberra 1987
NGA 1987.340
Gift of Jean Cummins in memory of her father John Harvey 1992
NGA 1992.276
Purchased 1998
NGA 1998.136
Purchased 1996
NGA 1996.609
Purchased 1985
NGA 1985.121-122
Gift of Mrs L. Hawkins 1987
NGA 1987.2185
Purchased 1989
NGA 1989.341
Purchased 1989
NGA 1989.1904
Purchased 2003
NGA 2003.17
Purchased 1984
NGA 1984.3034
Purchased 1995
NGA 1995.307
Purchased 1995
NGA 1995.308
Purchased 1989
NGA 1990.1733
Purchased 2003
NGA 2003.281
Purchased 2003
NGA 2003.283
not signed, not dated
Purchased 1990
NGA 1990.1804
Purchased 1999
NGA 1999.83
© Lena Yarinkura, 1998. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney
Purchased 1999
NGA 1999.84
© Lena Yarinkura, 1998. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney
Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1988
NGA 1988.2399
Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1988
NGA 1988.2400
Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1988
NGA 1988.2401
Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1988
NGA 1988.2402
Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1988
NGA 1988.2403
Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1988
NGA 1988.2404
Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1988
NGA 1988.2405
Purchased from Gallery admission charges 1988
NGA 1988.2408
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Food processing implements such as this sieve are often made of fibre woven openly to create a mesh effect. This ensures sufficient spaces for fine particles to pass through, allowing the coarser matter to be retained. The purpose of such a process is to make substances edible, tasty and safe to eat, which if untreated, are poisonous, hard or bitter.

Some foods require extensive leeching and a sieve like this filled with toxic foods, may be left in the path of running water for over 24 hours. The sedge grass used is also popular in the creation of dilly bags in Arnhem Land and used as leeches for nuts and shell fish as the mud and water gradually drains away through the perforations on the way back to camp. Sieves like this one are used for washing wyuk (waterlily) roots.

(See : Food Processing in Encyclopedia of Aboriginal Australia p.380)

This Golbordok (traditional bush honey-collecting bag) was woven from undyed pandanus fibre (leaves) by Margaret Rinybuma and decorated with ochres by her husband Michael Gadjawala. The close weave is to prevent honey from leaking.

This Golbordok (traditional bush honey-collecting bag) was woven from undyed pandanus fibre (leaves) by Margaret Rinybuma and decorated with ochres by her husband Michael Gadjawala. The close weave is to prevent honey from leaking.

This traditional object is closely woven to prevent leakage of honey and dyed with root bark of Gulwa and Marngoy bloodroot. The yellow dye changed to orange/red with the addition of white ashes to the dye bath.

Eseli‘s contemporary dance regalia is informed by a knowledge of traditional practices and the experience of change and adaptation of Islander people. Construction of items for dance performance is specific to Torres Strait Islander arts practice. Like Aboriginal people, Torres Strait Islanders have a history of adapting to and accommodating imposed change. Eseli is no exception: his work reflects ingenuity and innovation in adapting to new resources.

Eseli’s various aeroplane headdresses document the influences on Torres Strait Island life during and since World War II.

Kngwarray commenced her artistic life in her twilight years, in her early 80s, initially working in the batik style before switching to synthetic polymer paint on canvas, which saw her artistic star shoot into the national and international contemporary art stratosphere. Even in her earliest works, such as Untitled (1981) the characteristic hand of the artist is immediate, standing out from her contemporaries in its assuredness. Kngwarray’s distinct painterly technique of translating body painting to canvas, overlaying and concealing stories and symbols is beautifully represented in this work.

The basket with grid design in thickly applied pigment is likely to have been made directly for the outside market. Though such items are in use today, the ‘grid’ design relates strongly in mark-making to pukumani poles (and body painting), where a recurring pattern is achieved with a traditional tool, a wooden comb which is dipped into the pigment.

Beyond its inclusion in pukumani ceremony to adorn grave posts, the tunga has its place in a creation story of Melville Island:

Murtankala, an old blind woman, came out of the earth at Murupianga in the southeast of Melville Island. In a bark basket (tunga) on her back, she carried her three children and began a slow crawl north in search of food…she then made provision for her children by introducing animals and covering the bare islands with vegetation.

(Jackie Dunn, Kiripuranji: Contemporary Art from the Tiwi Islands, 2002, p.3)

For many centuries, travel along the rivers and across to the nearer islands off the Arnhem Land coast was by canoe traditionally made from sheets of stringybark. Macassans [from Sulawesi in Indonesia] brought steel axes, after which time dugout canoes with sails woven from pandanus fibre were used.

(Judith Proctor Wiseman, Thomson Time—Arnhem Land in the 1930s: a photographic essay, 1996, p. 59)

The dhoeri is a traditional Torres Strait Islander head-dress and appears in the centre of the Torres Strait Islander flag, designed by the late Bernard Namok.

Desert oak, kurrajong, bean and mulga trees provided the majority of the wood used for sculpture at Utopia. One of the recurring sculptural figures has been the kwertatye, a ritual law enforcer, or, in other guises, the spirit ‘bogey’ figure. One of the most prolific sculptors of the group, Queenie Kemarr described this figure: ‘this is the woman who comes out from the site when the girls collect potatoes too close to the sacred site, where they are not supposed to collect. That spirit woman is depicted in a ceremonial situation as a dancer dressed in make-up.’

The broad white, vertical lines are indicative of body-painting designs reproduced during ceremony by artists from this area. Spirit man (1989) by Anmatyerr artist Wally Petyarr follows a similar theme in relation to important men’s sites.

Desert oak, kurrajong, bean and mulga trees provided the majority of the wood used for sculpture at Utopia. One of the recurring sculptural figures has been the kwertatye, a ritual law enforcer, or, in other guises, the spirit ‘bogey’ figure. One of the most prolific sculptors of the group, Queenie Kemarr described this figure: ‘this is the woman who comes out from the site when the girls collect potatoes too close to the sacred site, where they are not supposed to collect. That spirit woman is depicted in a ceremonial situation as a dancer dressed in make-up.’

The broad white, vertical lines are indicative of body-painting designs reproduced during ceremony by artists from this area. Spirit man (1989) by Anmatyerr artist Wally Petyarr follows a similar theme in relation to important men’s sites.

This shield is one of the only objects from the Blue Mountains region, west of Sydney, in the national collection. It came with little accompanying information and was catalogued as ‘Gandangara people?’ However, on the reverse of the catalogue information are notes speculating the work to be ‘probably Dharug people’ with a much earlier possible date of ‘c. 1800–1833’. Gandangara country is in the northern Blue Mountains region, while Dharug Country is further south, to the east of Sydney on the Great Dividing Range.

 ‘The emphasis in the early collections from the south-east on shields, boomerangs, spears and spearthrowers reflects a general nineteenth-century European interest in weaponry. It also reflects the aesthetics of their forms … It is important to remember that we are not viewing the objects as they originally looked. In many cases the incised patterns were infilled with clays and ochres and the raised surface of the central motifs was painted in the same or contrasting colours … most examples that survive in museum collections have become pigmentless with age and handling.’ (Howard Morphy, Aboriginal Art, 1998, pp. 330–332)

Banduk Marika studied printmaking in Sydney in the early 1980s at the National Art School. She exhibited alongside Euphemia Bostock in seminal Indigenous exhibitions of the early to mid ‘80s that heralded the first wave of ‘urban Aboriginal art’. These early exhibitions were the impetus behind the so-called ‘Urban Aboriginal Art’ movement, and overlooked the fact that Marika was a member of an important artistic and cultural clan, the Rirratjingu, from Yirrkala in north–east Arnhem Land. Foam bubbles represents the rippling salty edge of waves as they roll onto the shoreline, where bubbles of air hiss and pop as they glide across the sand. The iridescent pink dye of abstract elliptical repetition on purple silk shimmers under lights.

In Thompson’s digital prints Untitled, the colours are noticeably different to the actual colours of the clothing in the cases. Thompson stated that he had to make a choice between the skin tones of his models — all Indigenous people — or the colours of the jumper being as representative, as true to the original, as possible, so he chose the animate over the inanimate. These two ‘untitled’ prints depict Professor Marcia Langton standing sentinel-like: her unwaveringly direct gaze observing, perhaps challenging, the viewer as they enter the gallery space.

Christian Thompson is one of many young, emerging Indigenous artists who challenge our very understanding of Australian identity and what it means to ‘be’ Australian.

Kangaroo and boomerang jumper and Tiwi jumper are ‘housed’ in display cases reminiscent of the reptile house at the zoo, the intentionally useless sleeves of the apparel entwined around the disembodied torsos, resembling contemporary versions of the Rainbow Serpent, a significant Indigenous ancestral being.

The original early 1980s pattern book from which Thompson drew inspiration portrayed attire purporting to represent Australia and Indigenous icons adorning non-Indigenous models, thereby relegating Indigenous people to the status of invisibility. Not so the case in Thompson’s re-staging of the original images.

‘Blak’s Palace follows on from my previous work that challenges notions of Aboriginality manifested in an Anglo–Celtic or western artifice. This works speaks specifically of a particular era — the 1980s. However, the colours chosen for the jumpers reference powder pinks, sky blues and camel browns that so often decorate kitsch or tourist market objects referencing Indigenous people. I’m basically reinterpreting these 1980s items of clothing by making them in the residue of 1950s kitsch. People like me who grew up in the 1980s in regional Australia, well there was material like these jumpers being made — suggestive of Aboriginal culture but definitely not representative of what Aboriginal culture meant to Aboriginal people.

The title [of the series] derives from my traditional country near Springsure in the Carnarvon Gorge [in Queensland]. Our traditional painting on the rock faces in the Gorge illustrates our [D]reaming and is a fertility site for women. Many blacks and whites in southwest Queensland call this place the Blak’s Palace, inferring that this site is of immense beauty — it is for me.’

(Christian Thompson, artist’s statement, 2002)

This fish trap has an ambiguous shape that has a reference to the triangular pandanus skirts worn by women like an apron. They also have a reference to the Ancestral Djan’kawu for these Sisters gave birth to the clans and conical birthing mats, similar to this trap in form, are included in paintings on the subject. In this way they have cross-references to other woven objects in the collection as well as some of the bark painting collection.

Burarra and Kuninjku people are particularly renown for making fish traps. Burarra make conical fish traps jina-bakara, using pandanus. Traditionally, only men were involved in the construction of the large fish traps, but small children were used to crawl inside to assist with the inner trap.

Today some artists use fish trap forms as the basis for sculptural works of art. Artists innovate with forms and colours, using diverse weaving techniques to make sculptures that have their origin in the traditional fish trap techniques. The utilitarian purpose of the fish trap is not any more the main focus of such production. Artists re-explore traditional techniques to create contemporary and innovative works of art.

 (documentation from Maningrida Arts and Culture art centre)

 ‘The reeds are gathered seasonally from creek waterways and rivers and dried. The weaving I do is twining. These baskets are made mostly by older women, young women as a rule are not interested in this time consuming craft. I have over the last twenty years or more began practising these traditional skills purely for my own creative pleasure and for the purpose of maintaining my culture.’

(Lennah Newson, artist’s statement, 2003)

Such early baskets were encountered and recorded by explorers to the Tasmania region in the 19th century. A plate by Leseur in Voyage de decouvertes aux terres australes 1807 contains the main elements of Tasmanian Aboriginal culture: clubs and spears, a woven rush basket, a pleated water container of bull kelp and a necklace of iridescent shells.

The skill of shell collecting and shell stringing was handed down to the artist from her mother, following a tradition of Aboriginal people of the Furneaux Islands group, off the north east coast of Tasmania. This includes the main islands of Flinders and Cape Barren, the latter also being well known for the annual traditional Aboriginal practice of mutton birding.

Three of these historic works comprise solely maireener shells, in different sizes and colours, the most pure form of the tradition of Tasmanian Aboriginal shell necklace-making. The fourth historic work is distinctive for its omission of maireeners and the use of numerous delicate rye shells punctuated by black crow shells.

A late 19th-century photograph of renowned Tasmanian Aboriginal woman Trugannini — popularly and racially defined as ‘the last full-blood Tasmanian Aborigine’ — portrays her anguished yet dignified face, a maireener shell necklace wound round and round her neck.

Three of these historic works comprise solely maireener shells, in different sizes and colours, the most pure form of the tradition of Tasmanian Aboriginal shell necklace-making. The fourth historic work is distinctive for its omission of maireeners and the use of numerous delicate rye shells punctuated by black crow shells.

A late 19th-century photograph of renowned Tasmanian Aboriginal woman Trugannini — popularly and racially defined as ‘the last full-blood Tasmanian Aborigine’ — portrays her anguished yet dignified face, a maireener shell necklace wound round and round her neck.

Three of these historic works comprise solely maireener shells, in different sizes and colours, the most pure form of the tradition of Tasmanian Aboriginal shell necklace-making. The fourth historic work is distinctive for its omission of maireeners and the use of numerous delicate rye shells punctuated by black crow shells.

A late 19th-century photograph of renowned Tasmanian Aboriginal woman Trugannini — popularly and racially defined as ‘the last full-blood Tasmanian Aborigine’ — portrays her anguished yet dignified face, a maireener shell necklace wound round and round her neck.

Three of these historic works comprise solely maireener shells, in different sizes and colours, the most pure form of the tradition of Tasmanian Aboriginal shell necklace-making. The fourth historic work is distinctive for its omission of maireeners and the use of numerous delicate rye shells punctuated by black crow shells.

A late 19th-century photograph of renowned Tasmanian Aboriginal woman Trugannini — popularly and racially defined as ‘the last full-blood Tasmanian Aborigine’ — portrays her anguished yet dignified face, a maireener shell necklace wound round and round her neck.

 ‘The reeds are gathered seasonally from creek waterways and rivers and dried. The weaving I do is twining. These baskets are made mostly by older women, young women as a rule are not interested in this time consuming craft. I have over the last twenty years or more began practising these traditional skills purely for my own creative pleasure and for the purpose of maintaining my culture.’

(Lennah Newson, artist’s statement, 2003)

Such early baskets were encountered and recorded by explorers to the Tasmania region in the 19th century. A plate by Leseur in Voyage de decouvertes aux terres australes 1807 contains the main elements of Tasmanian Aboriginal culture: clubs and spears, a woven rush basket, a pleated water container of bull kelp and a necklace of iridescent shells.

The making of bull kelp containers or water carriers is a tradition of the Aboriginal people of the Furneaux Islands group off the north east coast of Tasmania (including the main islands of Flinders and Cape Barren) and the west coast of mainland Tasmania.

Richardson is one of a small group of elder artists in Tasmania today maintaining Tasmanian Aboriginal cultural traditions through visual arts practice.

The container is fashioned by gathering strips of the fronds into a bulbous cup shape to hold water. The container is shaped with skewers made of tea tree. A carrying handle made of grass spun into bush string completes the form.

(Developing the Collection: Acquisitions 1997–1999, National Gallery of Australia, 1999)

Djorlam’s flat-bottomed round basket takes inspiration from more conventional round baskets made in Arnhem Land, yet by extending its form vertically re-invigorates the possibilities to create a form fresh to West Arnhem Land weaving. The vertical vessel form is reminiscent of bark buckets traditionally made by Tiwi artists.

This dilly bag blends references from a dilly bag shape, with gently rounded base with the open weave of the string bag to produce a distinctive and beautiful hybrid form. It reflects the exciting developments made in Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) weaving in recent times.

This basket blends references from an open-weave dilly bag style of weaving with a gently flattened base to produce a distinctive and beautiful form. It reflects the exciting developments made in Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) weaving in recent times.

Dobie Wurrkidj’s Bag and Handbag reveal an innovative direction of Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) weaving. The references to western handbags are mixed with techniques and forms more common in traditional weaving of baskets, dilly bags and string bags to produce these wonderful amalgam forms. Handbag forms can also be seen in the work of Julieanne Bangalang, Josie Maralngurra and Stephanie Nadjamerrek.

Dobie Wurrkidj’s Bag and Handbag reveal an innovative direction of Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) weaving. The references to western handbags are mixed with techniques and forms more common in traditional weaving of baskets, dilly bags and string bags to produce these wonderful amalgam forms. Handbag forms can also be seen in the work of Julieanne Bangalang, Josie Maralngurra and Stephanie Nadjamerrek.

Labidja Dirdi’s Basket, similar in ‘bucket’ form, is distinctive for its use of the distinctive deep pink dye particular to the Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) region. It reflects the exciting developments made in Oenpelli weaving in recent times.

Resistance (flag) by Rea flew alongside banner artworks by fellow Boomalli artists, Michael Riley and Brenda L Croft, all of which were commissioned as part of Quay Works for the 1996 Sydney Festival of the Arts. Akin to Giles’ (Kerwingie’s) use of red, black, yellow and white (which integrates the colours of the Aboriginal flag and the four traditional pigments and ochres used in body, rock and bark paintings) Rea’s flag co-opts the colours of Luritja/Wombai artist, Harold Thomas’ original design. However, she has incorporated her own meaning into the work, through the overlaid text ‘RESISTANCE’, a term that has appeared in varying form in previous works by the artist.

(Further reading see: Boomalli Aboriginal Artists’ Cooperative and INIVA , True colours: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists raise the flag, 1994)

The Australian method of weaving baskets and other fabrics is known as weft twining. There are two sets of elements, a warp set made of bundles of fibres or a split cane, and a weft set usually with two working strands that interlace with the warps. On the westcoast of Cape York Peninsula a strong, rectangular container is made with warps and wefts of string rather than fibre or cane. Because they are flat and flexible they are referred to as string bags, but the method of making them is similar to the two-strand twining method.

(A.L. West, Fibrecrafts: Aboriginal Australia Culture and Society, 1989, p.6)

In Thompson’s digital prints Untitled, the colours are noticeably different to the actual colours of the clothing in the cases. Thompson stated that he had to make a choice between the skin tones of his models — all Indigenous people — or the colours of the jumper being as representative, as true to the original, as possible, so he chose the animate over the inanimate. These two ‘untitled’ prints depict Professor Marcia Langton standing sentinel-like: her unwaveringly direct gaze observing, perhaps challenging, the viewer as they enter the gallery space.

 ‘In the early 1950s boldly figurative sculpture emerged from Aurukun. Recent works are often composite in nature, usually painted in broad areas of colour, similar to ceremonial body decorations, and represent ancestral beings in human form.’

(Howard Morphy, Aboriginal Art, 1998, p. 92)

This sculpture is associated with the tragic story of the two Quail women who ‘sang’ to each other across the Kirke estuary, mourning the death of one of the sisters’ babies. The dotting on the figure relates to the shimmering of clear water after the monsoon season in western Cape York Peninsula.

 ‘The Wunda (woonda) is a flat or slightly curved shield or oblong shape, with a raised grip or handle and made of wood of medium density. The name Wunda is said by linguist and anthropologist C. G. von Brandenstein (1992: 224) to be derived from the Paljgu word ‘wurnda’ the name of an unidentified wood also used to make these shields.’

(Kim Akerman ‘The Wunda Shields of Western Australia’, ART tribal, Musée Barbier-Mueller, Geneva Bulletin, 1992)

‘The large, painted, softwood shield is of a type found only in the rainforest. These types of shields were cut from the natural buttresses of giant fig trees and taken back to camp to be shaped with an axe or tomahawk. The wood had high moisture content and needed about two weeks to dry out. Hot coals were used to burn in to the back of the shield and the wood was chiselled out to make a handgrip. After the outer surface was smoothed with a wooden rasp, designs were painted with lawyer cane brushes in earth pigments and charcoal, using human blood as a fixative. A shield was not considered finished until it was painted. It is thought that the individual designs acted as a means of identification in situations of ritual conflict.’

(Kate Khan, ‘Adornments and design in north Queensland: A view from the nineteenth century’ in Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, 2000, pp. 181–182)

Euphemia Bostock’s Possum skin design is a signature piece for this artist, one of the ten founding members of Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative, Sydney. Bostock was inspired to create this design after viewing an incised 19th century possum skin cloak the Museum of Victoria some years before. She was struck simultaneously by the realisation that representation of material culture from south–east regions of Australia, including her own people, was scant in major public collections, and the desire to create contemporary versions drawing on her heritage.

Even after a century, relatively little is known about these objects; however, a number of interpretations are valid. The following are two elucidatory readings by different curators at the National Gallery of Australia.

‘These chairs were made by the men of the Aboriginal fishing community of Taree in northern New South Wales. They are rumoured to be based on the design of an English verandah chair and this is the wonderful result of the artisan’s interpretation of the design using local materials. The Taree fishermen were very talented carpenters. They made their own boats and also sets of verandah furniture for the local farmers for extra cash when the fish weren’t biting. These sets usually included two chairs and a sofa. The only other set of which we are aware is in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, and is painted black.’

(Jim Logan, Everyday Art: Australian Folk Art, 1998, p. 17)

The scant information on the chairs’ provenance reveals that they belonged to a Mr McInnes from the Dunmore Estate at Patterson, approximately 120 km to the south-west of Taree. This indicates the following owner of the property bought the chairs from the estate, but later possibly sold them to a merchant.

Near Taree, Purfleet Aboriginal Reserve was officially established in 1900 when the Aborigines Protection Board obtained control over 18 acres of land two miles from the centre of Taree.

(Further reading, see ‘Purfleet and Taree’ in Penny Taylor (ed.), After 200 Years: Photographic essays of Aboriginal and Islander Australia today, 1988, p. 19)

On the plains country between the Liverpool and Tomkinson rivers are several meandering shallow creeks, which in places spread out into quite wide pools. It is on the lower tidal parts of the creeks that mandjabu (fish traps) are used, with tremendous effect in harvesting barramundi.

Kalunba was the main person involved in the making and operation of the mandjabu. A thin vine called Milil is used with another small tree used to make the hoops. A fence of stakes, paperbark, reeds and grass is made on a narrow, tidal section of the creek. An opening is left for the barramundi to travel up with the tide. When the tide turns the mandjabu is put in place. When the mandjabu fills the opening is blocked and the trap removed and untied at the back for the fish to be removed.

Ken THAIDAY SNR

Meriam people

born 1950, Erub (Darnley Island), Torres Strait, Australia

Beizam (shark) dance mask

Thaiday is best known for his imaginative shark head-dresses. These dance masks represent an impressive and menacing symbol of law and order. The shark mask, worn by male dancers only, is traditionally associated with the Bomai-malu cult. The shark is represented by large jaws that hide the wearer’s face, the menacing teeth mitigated by rows of feathers attached to the jaws.

Like many of his countrymen and women, Dodo was an experienced stockman who worked on surrounding stations for decades. His artistic practice began in the 1960s when he created heads out of mud and wood, becoming recognised as a master carver and passing his knowledge onto other artists in the region. He was previously renowned for his finely executed engraving work on wooden objects and pearl shells. In about 1984, the art collector Lord Alistair McAlpine visited the mission, met the artist and commissioned a series of carved stone heads. Since McAlpine’s departure from the region similar carvings are rarely produced.

Pearl shells, known as riji or jakuli in the Bardi language, are associated with water, spiritual powers and healing due to the luminous shimmering quality of their surfaces. Bardi equate the light reflecting off the shells to lightning flashes, which are prominent during the monsoon, and to lights flashing off the cheeks of the Rainbow Serpent, who is closely linked to water and rain.

The tradition of interlocking designs etched into the surfaces of pearl shells is distinctive in Aboriginal art. The incised designs are highlighted with a mixture of ochre and resin, which is rubbed into the grooves. Decorated and plain pearl shells are used for rain-making and magical purposes, for trade, in ceremonies and as personal adornments such as necklaces or pubic covers when they are worn attached by belts or necklaces of hairstring.

Riji originate around Broome, in the west Kimberley region. They are objects of great value and have been exchanged along ancient trade routes over vast areas of the continent. They appear as far afield as Yuendumu in the desert, south-eastern Arnhem Land, Queensland and South Australia. Often plain pearl shells are decorated further along trade routes, far from their place of origin.

Bluey’s carved emu eggs are among the best in Australia. His tools are simple, just a corner file and a razor sharp penknife that he uses to explore the four outer layers and many shades in the egg.

A unique and essential item of rainforest life was an elegantly constructed, crescent-shaped, woven basket. These beautifully crafted baskets were made from lengths of split lawyer cane, a prolific climbing plant found throughout the rainforest. The lawyer cane was not collected until needed because the basket-maker had to complete the task within five days—after this time the cane could no longer be made pliable by soaking. The distinct crescent shape of the basket was formed by stringing the ends of the split lawyer cane like a bow and attaching it by top-stitching to the inner surface. Two handles, one small, one long, were fitted to the mouth and held there by tightly woven thin strips of split lawyer cane.

Undecorated crescent-shaped baskets were used to gather and leach foods. … In flood times women caught large quantities of small fish with these baskets. Very large baskets were used to ferry goods—and also children—across rivers. Crescent-shaped bark baskets were also made for carrying honey or water.

Painted baskets were used by men for various purposes: to carry ritual objects, for trading purposes, or as a gift to a friend.

(Kate Khan, ‘Adornments and design in north Queensland: A view from the nineteenth century’ in Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, 2000, p.181)

This basket was purchased for the national collection in 1998, having been acquired by the vendor c.1988 from an opportunity shop. The vendor related to Gallery curators how the basket was put to use in their kitchen to hold fruit such as oranges. The vendor also described how the remaining ochres were unfortunately scrubbed from the basket when they decided to wash off decades of accumulated grease.

Ancestors are the subject matter of Lena Yarinkura’s two woven Yawkyawk Spirits. She is renowned for these ambitious and highly distinctive pandanus, paperbark, feathers, and natural pigments fibre sculptures. ‘Yawkyawk’ is a word meaning ‘young woman’ and ‘young woman spirit being’. Yarinkura diverged from the more conventional fibre work of her contemporaries to become one of the first Arnhem Land women to work with fibre in a sculptural way.

These Yawkyawk female water spirits from west Central Arnhem Land are made with pandanus in much the same process as a dilly bag or fish trap might be made: beginning by creating a closed end, much like the base of a dilly bag. From there, the artist works up and out to gently expand the woven structure to fashion a bulbous torso before narrowing the weave at the torso’s base or hips to create a flat two layered section representing the tail fins.

The ochre pigment applied to the textured weave of the pandanus fibre, suggest the scales of the water spirits and the shimmering quality to their skin.

Ancestors are the subject matter of Lena Yarinkura’s two woven Yawkyawk Spirits. She is renowned for these ambitious and highly distinctive pandanus, paperbark, feathers, and natural pigments fibre sculptures. ‘Yawkyawk’ is a word meaning ‘young woman’ and ‘young woman spirit being’. Yarinkura diverged from the more conventional fibre work of her contemporaries to become one of the first Arnhem Land women to work with fibre in a sculptural way.

These Yawkyawk female water spirits from west Central Arnhem Land are made with pandanus in much the same process as a dilly bag or fish trap might be made: beginning by creating a closed end, much like the base of a dilly bag. From there, the artist works up and out to gently expand the woven structure to fashion a bulbous torso before narrowing the weave at the torso’s base or hips to create a flat two layered section representing the tail fins.

The ochre pigment applied to the textured weave of the pandanus fibre, suggest the scales of the water spirits and the shimmering quality to their skin.

Aunty Ellen describes herself as a ‘cultural weaver’ making the baskets, mats and fish scoops that the old people used for gathering food and for protection. ‘Everything made by the old people served a purpose and it is an honour for me to be doing it today’.They were tools of survival in the past, now they are tools for the survival of the culture. Although she may occasionally use some of the baskets, primarily her work functions as a symbol of her culture and of herself as a representative of that culture.

(Michele Gollan in Keeping Culture: Aboriginal art to Keeping Places and Cultural Centres, 2000, p. 5)

In 1993 Giles produced The Piece – a horizontal length of fabric comprising linocut and screen-printed stencils overlaying hand painted cotton, which was created at Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute.

The artist stated: ‘my designs are inspired by the environment on the Murray River and the Coorong, to draw attention to the [native] flora and fauna that is slowly but surely becoming extinct [through environmental degradation]’.

Utopia Station is situated 240km north-east of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. In 1978, an adult education program of driving, sewing and batik was introduced. Jenny Green and Julia Murray taught the batik classes, which proved to be very popular, and led to an exhibition in Alice Springs in 1980. A number of visiting artists including Inga Hunter and Linda Jackson have introduced other techniques such as screen-printing. About 80 women contribute, usually working in family groups from the 14 outstations. The batiks are spread between cardboard boxes, or stretched over their legs, the wax being heated in metal pots on open fires, situated in the centre of the group. Most of the women use the tjanting wax pen, which contributes to their fluid and spontaneous designs. Inspiration comes from the surrounding country with the use of flowers, plants and animals. Some artists prefer the stylised representations of women preparing for ceremonies and patterns made on the ground from dancing.

(See Brody A, 1990, Utopia: A Picture Story, Heytesbury Holdings Ltd, Perth)

The artists from Utopia community, comprised of mainly Anmatyerr and Alyawarr people, draw on traditional sites and stories for inspiration in their textile designs. This small community to the north—east of Alice Springs, has produced some of Australia’s most distinguished Indigenous artists, most significantly the late Emily Kam Kngwarray. Kngwarray, Gloria Tamerr Petyarr, and their lesser-known countrywomen, Nancy Petyarr and Nora Kemarr Moore, are all Anmatyerr people.

Gloria Tamerr Petyarr’s work No title, Nancy Petyarr’s Three bores and Nora Kemarr Moore’s Goofy bore all depict important Dreaming, or Tjukurrpa sites of the artists’ traditional country, incorporating icons of native flora and fauna in luminescent yellow and gold hues on deep brown, red and purple tableaux.

The artists from Utopia community, comprised of mainly Anmatyerr and Alyawarr people, draw on traditional sites and stories for inspiration in their textile designs. This small community to the north—east of Alice Springs, has produced some of Australia’s most distinguished Indigenous artists, most significantly the late Emily Kam Kngwarray. Kngwarray, Gloria Tamerr Petyarr, and their lesser-known countrywomen, Nancy Petyarr and Nora Kemarr Moore, are all Anmatyerr people.

Gloria Tamerr Petyarr’s work No title, Nancy Petyarr’s Three bores and Nora Kemarr Moore’s Goofy bore all depict important Dreaming, or Tjukurrpa sites of the artists’ traditional country, incorporating icons of native flora and fauna in luminescent yellow and gold hues on deep brown, red and purple tableaux.

Three of these historic works comprise solely maireener shells, in different sizes and colours, the most pure form of the tradition of Tasmanian Aboriginal shell necklace-making. The fourth historic work is distinctive for its omission of maireeners and the use of numerous delicate rye shells punctuated by black crow shells.

A late 19th-century photograph of renowned Tasmanian Aboriginal woman Trugannini — popularly and racially defined as ‘the last full-blood Tasmanian Aborigine’ — portrays her anguished yet dignified face, a maireener shell necklace wound round and round her neck.

Three of these historic works comprise solely maireener shells, in different sizes and colours, the most pure form of the tradition of Tasmanian Aboriginal shell necklace-making. The fourth historic work is distinctive for its omission of maireeners and the use of numerous delicate rye shells punctuated by black crow shells.

A late 19th-century photograph of renowned Tasmanian Aboriginal woman Trugannini — popularly and racially defined as ‘the last full-blood Tasmanian Aborigine’ — portrays her anguished yet dignified face, a maireener shell necklace wound round and round her neck.

 ‘To get the maireeners we wait for a spring tide and we have to walk into the water up to our waist or knees and pull the maireener shells off (the seaweed). It’s the same as the little rice [rye] shells, they live in the dry seaweed. We fill our buckets up with seaweed then we go and wash the seaweed out and these shells fall in the bottom of the bucket. The toothies we have to pick up one at a time too. So it takes a long time to make one of these necklaces.’

(Muriel Maynard, 2002, from Australian Museums and Galleries Online website ‘Aboriginal shell necklaces’ feature)

Ernabella Arts Inc. is the country’s longest running Indigenous arts and cultural centre, having been established in 1948 under the auspices of a Presbyterian mission in central Australia and incorporated in 1975. Of the distinctive ‘Ernabella Design’, anthropologist Ute Eickelkamp writes that it ‘is a modern Indigenous art form with distinct conventions for forming shapes and compositions. It began with schematic drawings created by children in the mission school and was…developed into an artistic style by a group of women.’

(Ute Eickelkamp in Taylor L, Painting the Land Story, 1999, pp.77-78

This object is a ‘yukuwa’, a sculpture of a yam plant, the blood yam, made from string woven around paperbark and painted with ochres. Similar items are used in ceremonies.

 ‘The Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (Anangu [cultural group]) women from Ernabella (Pukatja), a community of around 500 people at the eastern end of the Musgrave Ranges in northern South Australia, have developed a design tradition that defies conventional expectations of what Aboriginal art is, or should be.’

 ‘According to the artists Anapalaku walka, the ‘Ernabella design’, is basically a ‘pretty design’—an array of ornamental patterns that lacks any narrative qualities, traditional or otherwise. ‘Tjukurrpa wiya’ (no story)… The Ernabella Design, is in the eyes of the artists, disassociated from traditional narrative artistic systems found in sand drawings and ceremonial body and object decoration.’

(Ute Eickelkamp in Taylor L, Painting the Land Story, 1999, pp.77-78)

Its artists share a long history of textile and fabric work, from early hook rugs in the 1950s and 1960s to the more recent batik lengths, as evident in the impressive collaborative piece Untitled (1985), and Nyukana Baker’s Untitled silk length (1994).

The Maningrida region is known for conical fish traps made by men and now sometimes women. Traditionally the conical fish traps are used in conjunction with long mats (or ‘fish fences’) that are used as barriers in creeks to divert fish into the trap.

Burarra and Kuninjku people are particularly renown for making fish traps. Burarra make conical fish traps jina-bakara, using pandanus. Traditionally, only men were involved in the construction of the large fish traps, but small children were used to crawl inside to assist with the inner trap.

Today some artists use fish trap forms as the basis for sculptural works of art. Artists innovate with forms and colours, using diverse weaving techniques to make sculptures that have their origin in the traditional fish trap techniques. The utilitarian purpose of the fish trap is not any more the main focus of such production. Artists re-explore traditional techniques to create contemporary and innovative works of art.

(documentation from Maningrida Arts and Culture)

A mat in the traditional style is made for fishing usually from twined pandanus, and takes the form of a long rectangle of several metres long. This one is twined from sand palm (Livistona humilis) and bush string. Such mats are sometimes known as fish fences because they are used to enclose an area in the water, trapping fish inside their boundaries. Traditionally artists made this fence from plain pandanus (Pandanus spiralis). Today such fences are made the same way, but dyed pandanus is used to make patterns similar to the type seen on twined baskets.

(documentation from Maningrida Arts and Culture art centre)

The textiles, Oysters and Leaves, have a wonderful modernist edge to them, harking back to funky 1950s interior design when everything from textiles, wallpaper, murals, place—mats and household decorative objects had an Aboriginal ‘flavour’.

Walker was one of Australia’s most acclaimed Indigenous activist, poet, writer, actor and artist for many decades until her death in 1993. Originally intended for use as doona covers commissioned by Sheridan fabrics, the clean, clear placement of oyster and leaf symbols on cool white cotton are in contrast to the dense and busy imagery of many other Indigenous textile artists.

The textiles, Oysters and Leaves, have a wonderful modernist edge to them, harking back to funky 1950s interior design when everything from textiles, wallpaper, murals, place—mats and household decorative objects had an Aboriginal ‘flavour’.

Walker was one of Australia’s most acclaimed Indigenous activist, poet, writer, actor and artist for many decades until her death in 1993. Originally intended for use as doona covers commissioned by Sheridan fabrics, the clean, clear placement of oyster and leaf symbols on cool white cotton are in contrast to the dense and busy imagery of many other Indigenous textile artists.

Like many of his countrymen and women, Dodo was an experienced stockman who worked on surrounding stations for decades. His artistic practice began in the 1960s when he created heads out of mud and wood, becoming recognised as a master carver and passing his knowledge onto other artists in the region. He was previously renowned for his finely executed engraving work on wooden objects and pearl shells. In about 1984, the art collector Lord Alistair McAlpine visited the mission, met the artist and commissioned a series of carved stone heads. Since McAlpine’s departure from the region similar carvings are rarely produced.

Pearl shells, known as riji or jakuli in the Bardi language, are associated with water, spiritual powers and healing due to the luminous shimmering quality of their surfaces. Bardi equate the light reflecting off the shells to lightning flashes, which are prominent during the monsoon, and to lights flashing off the cheeks of the Rainbow Serpent, who is closely linked to water and rain.

The tradition of interlocking designs etched into the surfaces of pearl shells is distinctive in Aboriginal art. The incised designs are highlighted with a mixture of ochre and resin, which is rubbed into the grooves. Decorated and plain pearl shells are used for rain-making and magical purposes, for trade, in ceremonies and as personal adornments such as necklaces or pubic covers when they are worn attached by belts or necklaces of hairstring.

Riji originate around Broome, in the west Kimberley region. They are objects of great value and have been exchanged along ancient trade routes over vast areas of the continent. They appear as far afield as Yuendumu in the desert, south-eastern Arnhem Land, Queensland and South Australia. Often plain pearl shells are decorated further along trade routes, far from their place of origin.

Emu egg with carved decoration depicting a large tree and a farmer and two dogs in an altercation with a kangaroo

‘This egg was bought from Aboriginal people by a gentleman travelling around the countryside of western New South Wales on his bicycle. Originally one of a pair, it came to the Gallery from the granddaughter of the original owner. The egg depicts, in the round, an altercation between a farmer and a kangaroo with a marvellous abstract wild tree as background.’

(Jim Logan, Everyday Art: Australian Folk Art, 1998, p. 16)

This distinctive basket belonged to the archives of renowned Australian artist Margaret Preston (1875–1963). Preston was ‘one of the first artists to advocate the use of Aboriginal designs and motifs in Australian art. From the 1920s she travelled widely in Australia studying and searching for Aboriginal art’, which influenced her work for much of her career. She promoted ‘an art form that was a blend of Aboriginal tradition and contemporary styles’.

(Claire Baddeley, Motif and meaning: Aboriginal influences in Australian art 1930–1970, 1999, pp. 3–4. For further reading, see A changing relationship: Aboriginal Themes in Australian Art 1938–1988, (exh. cat.), SH Ervin Gallery, 1988)

Visitors to this exhibition have recently provided information that this basket is not by an Australian Aboriginal maker as originally documented, but likely to be from Buka Island off New Guinea. One anecdote related that, in the 1950s, Buka women would come to the larger Manus Island and sell such baskets on market days to navy personnel stationed there.

These spirit figures are made by Tiwi artist, Kitty Kantilla (Kutuwalumi Purawarrumpatu), one of Australia’s most highly regarded contemporary artists. A departure from her exquisite paintings and prints, these figures are carved in ironwood, a material readily found on Bathurst and Melville islands and used extensively for wooden sculptures that have their beginnings in the famous tutini or Pukumani grave posts of the area.

As such the formal structures of Female figure and Male figure have great similarities with the Pukumani grave posts fashioned from the same ironwood. Being male and female, these figures possibly represent the two key ancestral heroes for the Tiwi people: Purrukurparli and Bima, who brought the first mortuary ceremonies to the Tiwi.

These spirit figures are made by Tiwi artist, Kitty Kantilla (Kutuwalumi Purawarrumpatu), one of Australia’s most highly regarded contemporary artists. A departure from her exquisite paintings and prints, these figures are carved in ironwood, a material readily found on Bathurst and Melville islands and used extensively for wooden sculptures that have their beginnings in the famous tutini or Pukumani grave posts of the area.

As such the formal structures of Female figure and Male figure have great similarities with the Pukumani grave posts fashioned from the same ironwood. Being male and female, these figures possibly represent the two key ancestral heroes for the Tiwi people: Purrukurparli and Bima, who brought the first mortuary ceremonies to the Tiwi.

Pearl shells, known as riji or jakuli in the Bardi language, are associated with water, spiritual powers and healing due to the luminous shimmering quality of their surfaces. Bardi equate the light reflecting off the shells to lightning flashes, which are prominent during the monsoon, and to lights flashing off the cheeks of the Rainbow Serpent, who is closely linked to water and rain.

The tradition of interlocking designs etched into the surfaces of pearl shells is distinctive in Aboriginal art. The incised designs are highlighted with a mixture of ochre and resin, which is rubbed into the grooves. Decorated and plain pearl shells are used for rain-making and magical purposes, for trade, in ceremonies and as personal adornments such as necklaces or pubic covers when they are worn attached by belts or necklaces of hairstring.

Riji originate around Broome, in the west Kimberley region. They are objects of great value and have been exchanged along ancient trade routes over vast areas of the continent. They appear as far afield as Yuendumu in the desert, south-eastern Arnhem Land, Queensland and South Australia. Often plain pearl shells are decorated further along trade routes, far from their place of origin.

Pearl shells, known as riji or jakuli in the Bardi language, are associated with water, spiritual powers and healing due to the luminous shimmering quality of their surfaces. Bardi equate the light reflecting off the shells to lightning flashes, which are prominent during the monsoon, and to lights flashing off the cheeks of the Rainbow Serpent, who is closely linked to water and rain.

The tradition of interlocking designs etched into the surfaces of pearl shells is distinctive in Aboriginal art. The incised designs are highlighted with a mixture of ochre and resin, which is rubbed into the grooves. Decorated and plain pearl shells are used for rain-making and magical purposes, for trade, in ceremonies and as personal adornments such as necklaces or pubic covers when they are worn attached by belts or necklaces of hairstring.

Riji originate around Broome, in the west Kimberley region. They are objects of great value and have been exchanged along ancient trade routes over vast areas of the continent. They appear as far afield as Yuendumu in the desert, south-eastern Arnhem Land, Queensland and South Australia. Often plain pearl shells are decorated further along trade routes, far from their place of origin.

Pearl shells, known as riji or jakuli in the Bardi language, are associated with water, spiritual powers and healing due to the luminous shimmering quality of their surfaces. Bardi equate the light reflecting off the shells to lightning flashes, which are prominent during the monsoon, and to lights flashing off the cheeks of the Rainbow Serpent, who is closely linked to water and rain.

The tradition of interlocking designs etched into the surfaces of pearl shells is distinctive in Aboriginal art. The incised designs are highlighted with a mixture of ochre and resin, which is rubbed into the grooves. Decorated and plain pearl shells are used for rain-making and magical purposes, for trade, in ceremonies and as personal adornments such as necklaces or pubic covers when they are worn attached by belts or necklaces of hairstring.

Riji originate around Broome, in the west Kimberley region. They are objects of great value and have been exchanged along ancient trade routes over vast areas of the continent. They appear as far afield as Yuendumu in the desert, south-eastern Arnhem Land, Queensland and South Australia. Often plain pearl shells are decorated further along trade routes, far from their place of origin.

Pearl shells, known as riji or jakuli in the Bardi language, are associated with water, spiritual powers and healing due to the luminous shimmering quality of their surfaces. Bardi equate the light reflecting off the shells to lightning flashes, which are prominent during the monsoon, and to lights flashing off the cheeks of the Rainbow Serpent, who is closely linked to water and rain.

The tradition of interlocking designs etched into the surfaces of pearl shells is distinctive in Aboriginal art. The incised designs are highlighted with a mixture of ochre and resin, which is rubbed into the grooves. Decorated and plain pearl shells are used for rain-making and magical purposes, for trade, in ceremonies and as personal adornments such as necklaces or pubic covers when they are worn attached by belts or necklaces of hairstring.

Riji originate around Broome, in the west Kimberley region. They are objects of great value and have been exchanged along ancient trade routes over vast areas of the continent. They appear as far afield as Yuendumu in the desert, south-eastern Arnhem Land, Queensland and South Australia. Often plain pearl shells are decorated further along trade routes, far from their place of origin.

Pearl shells, known as riji or jakuli in the Bardi language, are associated with water, spiritual powers and healing due to the luminous shimmering quality of their surfaces. Bardi equate the light reflecting off the shells to lightning flashes, which are prominent during the monsoon, and to lights flashing off the cheeks of the Rainbow Serpent, who is closely linked to water and rain.

The tradition of interlocking designs etched into the surfaces of pearl shells is distinctive in Aboriginal art. The incised designs are highlighted with a mixture of ochre and resin, which is rubbed into the grooves. Decorated and plain pearl shells are used for rain-making and magical purposes, for trade, in ceremonies and as personal adornments such as necklaces or pubic covers when they are worn attached by belts or necklaces of hairstring.

Riji originate around Broome, in the west Kimberley region. They are objects of great value and have been exchanged along ancient trade routes over vast areas of the continent. They appear as far afield as Yuendumu in the desert, south-eastern Arnhem Land, Queensland and South Australia. Often plain pearl shells are decorated further along trade routes, far from their place of origin.

Pearl shells, known as riji or jakuli in the Bardi language, are associated with water, spiritual powers and healing due to the luminous shimmering quality of their surfaces. Bardi equate the light reflecting off the shells to lightning flashes, which are prominent during the monsoon, and to lights flashing off the cheeks of the Rainbow Serpent, who is closely linked to water and rain.

The tradition of interlocking designs etched into the surfaces of pearl shells is distinctive in Aboriginal art. The incised designs are highlighted with a mixture of ochre and resin, which is rubbed into the grooves. Decorated and plain pearl shells are used for rain-making and magical purposes, for trade, in ceremonies and as personal adornments such as necklaces or pubic covers when they are worn attached by belts or necklaces of hairstring.

Riji originate around Broome, in the west Kimberley region. They are objects of great value and have been exchanged along ancient trade routes over vast areas of the continent. They appear as far afield as Yuendumu in the desert, south-eastern Arnhem Land, Queensland and South Australia. Often plain pearl shells are decorated further along trade routes, far from their place of origin.

Pearl shells, known as riji or jakuli in the Bardi language, are associated with water, spiritual powers and healing due to the luminous shimmering quality of their surfaces. Bardi equate the light reflecting off the shells to lightning flashes, which are prominent during the monsoon, and to lights flashing off the cheeks of the Rainbow Serpent, who is closely linked to water and rain.

The tradition of interlocking designs etched into the surfaces of pearl shells is distinctive in Aboriginal art. The incised designs are highlighted with a mixture of ochre and resin, which is rubbed into the grooves. Decorated and plain pearl shells are used for rain-making and magical purposes, for trade, in ceremonies and as personal adornments such as necklaces or pubic covers when they are worn attached by belts or necklaces of hairstring.

Riji originate around Broome, in the west Kimberley region. They are objects of great value and have been exchanged along ancient trade routes over vast areas of the continent. They appear as far afield as Yuendumu in the desert, south-eastern Arnhem Land, Queensland and South Australia. Often plain pearl shells are decorated further along trade routes, far from their place of origin.

Pearl shells, known as riji or jakuli in the Bardi language, are associated with water, spiritual powers and healing due to the luminous shimmering quality of their surfaces. Bardi equate the light reflecting off the shells to lightning flashes, which are prominent during the monsoon, and to lights flashing off the cheeks of the Rainbow Serpent, who is closely linked to water and rain.

The tradition of interlocking designs etched into the surfaces of pearl shells is distinctive in Aboriginal art. The incised designs are highlighted with a mixture of ochre and resin, which is rubbed into the grooves. Decorated and plain pearl shells are used for rain-making and magical purposes, for trade, in ceremonies and as personal adornments such as necklaces or pubic covers when they are worn attached by belts or necklaces of hairstring.

Riji originate around Broome, in the west Kimberley region. They are objects of great value and have been exchanged along ancient trade routes over vast areas of the continent. They appear as far afield as Yuendumu in the desert, south-eastern Arnhem Land, Queensland and South Australia. Often plain pearl shells are decorated further along trade routes, far from their place of origin.

Pearl shells, known as riji or jakuli in the Bardi language, are associated with water, spiritual powers and healing due to the luminous shimmering quality of their surfaces. Bardi equate the light reflecting off the shells to lightning flashes, which are prominent during the monsoon, and to lights flashing off the cheeks of the Rainbow Serpent, who is closely linked to water and rain.

The tradition of interlocking designs etched into the surfaces of pearl shells is distinctive in Aboriginal art. The incised designs are highlighted with a mixture of ochre and resin, which is rubbed into the grooves. Decorated and plain pearl shells are used for rain-making and magical purposes, for trade, in ceremonies and as personal adornments such as necklaces or pubic covers when they are worn attached by belts or necklaces of hairstring.

Riji originate around Broome, in the west Kimberley region. They are objects of great value and have been exchanged along ancient trade routes over vast areas of the continent. They appear as far afield as Yuendumu in the desert, south-eastern Arnhem Land, Queensland and South Australia. Often plain pearl shells are decorated further along trade routes, far from their place of origin.

Specialist advice was given about the provenance of this object suggesting the shield was made perhaps 10 to 20 years either side of 1900. The size, shape and decoration of the shield indicate it was made around Kuranda in the rainforest area. Other places in the area associated with these shields include Yarrabah, Russell River, Bellenden-Ker and Everton.

Torres Strait Islander artists, Rosie Barkus’ and Tatipai Barsa’s vibrant screen–printed fabric lengths depict traditional and natural elements of island life in the far north of the continent. Barkus’ Dhoeri (feathered head-dress) portrays the striking head-dress traditionally worn by men during ceremonial dancing and celebration and a key feature of the Torres Strait Island flag, while Tatipai Barsa’s more whimsical Insects shows larger than life representations of mosquitoes in sultry, tropical hues.

Pearl shells, known as riji or jakuli in the Bardi language, are associated with water, spiritual powers and healing due to the luminous shimmering quality of their surfaces. Bardi equate the light reflecting off the shells to lightning flashes, which are prominent during the monsoon, and to lights flashing off the cheeks of the Rainbow Serpent, who is closely linked to water and rain.

The tradition of interlocking designs etched into the surfaces of pearl shells is distinctive in Aboriginal art. The incised designs are highlighted with a mixture of ochre and resin, which is rubbed into the grooves. Decorated and plain pearl shells are used for rain-making and magical purposes, for trade, in ceremonies and as personal adornments such as necklaces or pubic covers when they are worn attached by belts or necklaces of hairstring.

Riji originate around Broome, in the west Kimberley region. They are objects of great value and have been exchanged along ancient trade routes over vast areas of the continent. They appear as far afield as Yuendumu in the desert, south-eastern Arnhem Land, Queensland and South Australia. Often plain pearl shells are decorated further along trade routes, far from their place of origin.

The ancient pukumani mortuary tradition incorporates the tunga or bark baskets, which are placed on top of the pukumani grave posts. Such active ceremonial activity provides the opportunity for creative involvement in body painting and the production of tutini, armbands and tunga.

Jeannie Dibatu’s Bark basket has missing fibre and loss of pigment suggesting its use for ceremony before its transition to a gallery domain. The form has been fashioned by folding a bark sheet in half and sewing up the sides, while the bark is still moist and filling the form with padding, or sand, so that it may maintain its shape and to absorb the moisture from the bark casing. The bark fibre, or bush string, is also used to stitch and join the sides together and the basket is then painted.

Ever since the death of the Tiwi ancestor Purrukurparli—Murtankala’s son—the Tiwi people have celebrated Pukumani, carving poles, figures and animals to mark the death of loved ones. The story of Purrukurparli remains crucial to understanding the centrality of the Pukumani ritual in Tiwi religion, law, everyday life and creativity.

In the Palaneri (Tiwi creation time), Purrukurparli lived with his wife Bima and their son Jinani. Purrukurparli’s younger brother Tapara seduced Bima and persuaded her to go into the bush with him, leaving Jinani under a tree. One day, Bima left Jinani too long in the hot sun and he died. Purrukurparli, enraged by the death of his son, struck Bima with a throwing stick and she fled. Later, she was transformed into the curlew bird who still wails in the bush at night in remorse.

Meanwhile, Purrukurparli entered into a bitter struggle with Tapara who, remorseful, promised to restore Jinani to life within three days. Purrukurparli refused to hand the boy over and fought with Tapara, wounding him with fighting sticks. Tapara ran off, changing into the moon-man who even now is reincarnated after three days of ‘death’ or darkness every month. With Jinani in his arms, Purrukurparli then walked backwards into the sea, decreeing that death—until then unknown—should come to the whole of creation.

(Jackie Dunn, Kiripuranji: contemporary art from the Tiwi , 2002, p.4)

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