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National Museum of Australia

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Pokerwork boomerang featuring central motif of Australian map with bridge, stylistically attributed to La Perouse, Sydney


Pokerwork boomerang featuring central motif of Australian map with bridge, stylistically attributed to La Perouse, Sydney

Object information

Physical description

A symmetrical, dark timber boomerang decorated along the length of the anterior with figurative pokerwork designs. Listed from proper right to left, the designs include a possum sitting in a tree; an emu; a lizard; a human figure holding a boomerang and what appears to be a spear; a three-branch foliage motif; an aerial map of Australia featuring a the Sydney Harbour Bridge on its interior; another three-branch foliage motif; a human figure carrying a speared animal; a kangaroo; and a kookaburra sitting on a branch. The posterior is unadorned.

Statement of significance

This collection consists of eighty one decorated objects including boomerangs, clubs, scrimshaw, stock whip handles, shields and walking sticks. The majority of the objects are associated with Aboriginal missions during the late nineteenth to mid twentieth centuries, in particular the Barambah/ Cherbourg mission (QLD), La Perouse (NSW), Palm Island (QLD), and Lake Tyers (VIC). Various locations in South Australia are also included.

From the late nineteenth century Aboriginal people in Eastern Australia created a range of artefacts decorated with incised, carved, painted and pokerworked motifs, which documented their experiences of interaction with European settlers. 'Non-traditional' designs emerged which were specific to individual missions - such as the cross hatching and playing card iconography characteristic of Cherbourg and the incised flora and fauna motifs characteristic of La Perouse. Many of the objects in this collection reflect these new designs, and depict the changing circumstances brought about by European settlement as well as continuing links to land and traditional cultural practices. When used as trade items, these objects quickly became sought after, and as production increased they found a market as tourist souvenirs. This collection brings together a range of such objects from several key sites, including two of the most important east coast mission stations, Cherbourg and La Perouse. It also includes a number of hybrid objects, such as a tin yandi and a nail club, which combine tradition forms and functions with non-traditional materials. This collection is significant for including types of objects not well represented in existing museum collections, and for representing the range of objects being made by Indigenous people in Eastern Australia during this period, particular those living on missions.

Object information

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