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National Museum of Australia

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Collection Explorer


Tunga making sample of fibre


Tunga making sample of fibre

Object information

Physical description

A strand of fibre specimens. The piece has a smooth surface on both sides. There is a small curved piece of bark slightly to one side of the centre.

Statement of significance

The collection comprises a tunga made by Tiwi artist Kenny Brown from Milikapiti, Melville Island. The collection also includes his associated tunga-making implements such as brushes, a container for mixing ochres, ochres and a stone for grinding the ochre.

The tunga is a type of bark container unique to the Tiwi Islands. It was the main container used on the Tiwi islands prior to the introduction of coiled baskets and string bags. As well as its utilitarian role, tungas also hold various symbolic meanings among Tiwi people. When a Tiwi person dies, a tunga is placed on a pukumani pole symbolising the end of life. Tungas are also the symbol of life in the original account of the creation story of the islands.Tungas made by contemporary Tiwi artists, such as Kenny Brown, are still made in much the same way that has been used for generations. This example provides a powerful visual representation of contemporary art practice inspired by traditional artefact.

Object information

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