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National Museum of Australia

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Two-pronged carved ceremonial club from Tiwi Islands

2016.0011.0002

Two-pronged carved ceremonial club from Tiwi Islands

Object information

Physical description

A two-pronged or forked, carved and decorated wooden club. It is decorated with yellow, red, black and white ochre-painted bands and dots, which have mostly abraded off. A small section of wood has sheared off the end of one of the prongs; this appears to be old damage due to the smoothing of the damaged surface.

Statement of significance

This collection comprises nine Indigenous-related objects associated with the artist, activist and publisher Roderick Shaw (1915-1992). They are two carved and painted wooden ceremonial clubs from the Tiwi Islands, collected c. 1940-1945; two bark paintings from eastern Arnhem Land; a sheet of cardboard painted on both sides by a Murrinhpatha artist in about 1954; and four serigraphs offprints created c. 1954-1956 for Roland Robinson's book 'The Feathered Serpent'.

This collection references three intersecting stories: those of Shaw, the poet Roland Robinson whose work Shaw illustrated and published; and the Aboriginal artists whose work is represented in Robinson's books, and in this collection. These stories show how increased interaction and engagement with Aboriginal communities - either as a result of the large military presence in the north of Australia during World War Two which stimulated the market for artefacts, the visits of anthropologists, or the transcription and publication of traditional narratives by Robinson and others - resulted in greater interest in Aboriginal society from the broader community. Interestingly, this search for the 'authentic Australia' by non-indigenous Australian artists and poets helped encourage the revival of traditional Aboriginal cultural practices. This collection is particularly notable for featuring an early work on paper by one of Robinson's advisors, possibly Djinu Tjimari, a senior man who is significant in the modern history of the people of Wadeye (Port Keats).

Object information

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