Menu toggle

National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer

4

Kangaroo skin mat made at Hermannsburg Mission

2015.0026.0009

On display

Kangaroo skin mat made at Hermannsburg Mission

Object information

Physical description

A round mat made of three kangaroo skins, layered and attached to each other and backed with maroon felt. The larger skin is beige-brown and round, the middle skin is grey-brown and square and the top skin is brown and square. The felt backing has scalloped edges.

Statement of significance

The collection consists of ten items purchased by Patricia Ketchell during her holiday in Central Australia in October 1962: a watercolour painting of Mount Sonder by Oscar Namatjira and a round kangaroo pelt mat from the Hermannsburg Mission; a carved lizard, coolamon, boomerang and two tapsticks (or music sticks) from Aboriginal people camped at the base of Uluru; and a spearthrower and spears from an Aboriginal man walking near the road between Uluru and Alice Springs.

European settlement in Central Australia disrupted traditional ways of life for Aboriginal communities, bringing conflict, new economies, and a reliance on rationing. By the 1930s and 1940s, pastoralism, droughts and government policy had forced most Aboriginal communities to leave their traditional life and lands to live on stations, missions and reserves. The extension of the railway to Alice Springs in 1929 made Central Australia more accessible to tourists, and bus tours to Uluru began in the early 1950s. Many Aboriginal people sold artefacts to tourists as souvenirs across Central Australia, an enterprise generally encouraged and facilitated by the staff of missions and reserves as useful employment and for financial support. As tourism increased through the popularity of the art of Albert Namatjira and the iconic status of Uluru, the variety and number of artefacts available expanded, reflecting the desires of visitors to know more about the makers, the Aboriginal people of Central Australia, and of Western Arrarnta and Anangu people to protect and express their cultural heritage.

Physical description

On display at the National Museum of Australia.

Object information

Back to top