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National Museum of Australia

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4

Message stick

Object information

Physical description

Cylindrical, wooden shafted message stick with a pointed lower end and a tuft of emu feathers bound to the truncated end with fibre string, pigmented overall in geometric designs and dots on a white background.

Statement of significance

The Dick and Lindsay Roughsey Collection comprises a cylindrical, wooden, message stick with a pointed lower end and a tuft of emu feathers bound with red fibre string. The surface of the message stick, painted by Mornington Island artists and brothers Dick and Lindsay Roughsey, is covered with goodwill symbols painted in black, yellow, red and white in geometric designs and lines, dots and dashes on a white background. It was presented to prominentscholar of Aboriginal studies, Dr F. D. McCarthy, in Canberra in 1972.

Although not universal throughout Aboriginal Australia, message sticks were used by many tribes, including Lardil people, for various reasons including the coordination of large socio-economic events, to summon others for initiation ceremonies, for hostile purposes or to convey messages relating to sickness or death. Traditional message or ?talking? sticks were made of soft wood, ornamented, carved and often painted bright colours, and marked in various ways with notches, dots, strokes, curves and geometric designs. Lardil artists and brothers, Dick (Goobalathaldin) and Lindsay (Burud), Roughsey, were prominent in reviving and preserving the art culture of the Lardil people which has a long history stemming from traditions of body painting and shows strong affinities to ceremonial designs stretching to Central Australia. Beginning with bark painting, inspired by his visits to Arnhem Land in the 1950s, Dick Roughsey, OBE, went on to become internationally renowned for his children's books and remains one of Australia?s most significant artists. His talented older brother Lindsay, also known as 'Spider', was a source of inspiration to younger artists and at the heart of the history of Lardil painting from the early 1960s until his death in 2007.

Object information

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