Menu toggle

National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer


Bagu figure made by Debra Murray, 2011


Bagu figure made by Debra Murray, 2011

Object information


Debra Murray, a Girramay/Jirrbal artist working at the Girringun Aboriginal Arts Centre, made this sculptural figure. It was inspired by the bagu, a part of the fire-making equipment traditionally used by Aboriginal people living in the rainforest region. A bagu was crucial for both transporting fire sticks and for making fire in the wet and humid climate. Its shaped base had two hollows in it, into which a stick from the jiman tree was rotated in contact with some dry grass, until a spark was produced.

Physical description

A clay sculpture painted with cream pigment featuring triangular lines and shapes in brown, grey and black. There are two holes representing eyes in the upper part of the sculpture and three holes in the lower part wrapped by orange crochet.

Statement of significance

This collection comprises 17 bagu sculptures made by Aboriginal artists working at the Girringun Aboriginal Arts Centre in Cardwell, North Queensland. They made them in 2010 - 2012 as part of a ceramics project inspired by the traditional shape of the bagu, a traditional firemaking tool formed in the shape of a rainforest ancestral fire spirit.

The sculptures in this collection demonstrate the diversity of materials that Girringun Art Centre artists use in the production of their works, and the diversity of contemporary Aboriginal culture of the Cardwell region, north Queensland. The Girringun Arts Centre involves people from nine Traditional Owner groups - the Nywaigi, Gugu Badhun, Warrgamay, Warungun, Bandjin, Girramay, Gulgnah, Jirrbal and Djiru peoples - in the Cardwell region of north Queensland. The sculptures in this collection reflect contemporary interpretations of the traditional bagu. This collection also reveals the role art centres have had on the society and economy of Indigenous communities, since the latter half of the twentieth century.

Object information

Back to top