The Elaine and Jim Wolfensohn gift

Introduction | Blue case | Red case | Yellow case | Melbourne cup


Lena Yarinkura

Bush mice


Geometric design 1920–35 pearl, ochre National Gallery of Australia, CanberraLena Yarinkura Bush mice 2002
aluminium and wood National Gallery of Australia, Canberra more detail

Aboriginal art is well known for painted and carved representations of totemic animals and ancestral figures that are created for particular ceremonies. However, images of animals, including birds and fish, and everyday domestic objects form much of the subject matter for carvings and fibre sculptures created by Aboriginal artists working across Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.
An essential part of everyday life in places like Maningrida, Northern Territory, is the gathering of bush tucker.

On these excursions, people often see small animals such as djirrkkinj (bush mice) busily searching for food. Native mice and rats are found in many habitats across Australia, including mangroves, deserts and alpine regions.

Bush mice is made from aluminium by a sand-casting process. The artist used plasticine to make a model for the cast. Many artists are attracted to the natural silvery white colour of aluminium and appreciate its long-lasting properties. These are the first of only 25 sculptures made from their particular casts. This is known as a limited edition—a restricted number of sculptures is produced and then the cast is destroyed.

Lena Yarinkura (Rembarrnga/Kune people) is one of the most innovative Aboriginal fibre artists in the country and often works collaboratively with her husband, the artist Bob Burruwal. Her subject matter includes Yawkyawk spirits, camp dogs and various animal species, including northern quoll, bandicoot and bush mouse. She now also creates contemporary metal sculpture, working with a foundry in Brisbane.