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Emu egg carved with an image of a man's face and native Australian animals by Bill Reid, 1990


Emu egg carved with an image of a man's face and native Australian animals by Bill Reid, 1990

Object information


This is one of two emu eggs engraved with the image of Prof John Cawte. Prof Cawte is shown here tilting his head at an angle and smiling, On the opposite side is an image of a koala sitting in a tree.

Physical description

An emu egg that is hollow. It has two engraved panels, one featuring a face, and one featuring a koala in a tree. The words "Bill Reid 1990" appear in the carving. A band of motifs including a goanna, boomerangs, fish and a turtle appear around the middle of the egg lengthways. There is a small round plastic stand glued on to the bottom of the egg.

Statement of significance

The Bill Reid - John Cawte Collection comprises a series of emu eggs carved by William 'Bill' Reid (1917 -1993), a renowned Gamilaraay artist from northern-central NSW. The collection contains sixteen emu eggs - fourteen carved, one partly carved and one uncarved. They feature representations of Truganinni, Mum Shirl, the Ella brothers, Bill Reid, Albert Namatjiria and Tony Mundine, Alva Reid - Bill Reid's daughter, as well as John Cawte and Betty Watts (John Cawte's wife).
The collection also includes Reid's innovative system for internally illuminating each carved egg, consisting of a light stand on a circular cork board with a plastic batten holder and cord, sixteen plastic batten holders, sixteen switch cases, sixteen "push button or bell press" mechanisms, a tungsten 15 watt clear light bulb, seventeen plastic "Café HAG" coffee jar lids.

The collection is significant as constituting a rare series of representations of prominent Indigenous people and other figures undertaken by a renowned Aboriginal artist. As a set of carved emu eggs it is also an important contribution to the National Museum's collection of 20th century Indigenous craft objects. The collection compliments an existing NHC collection of six carved eggs depicting prominent Indigenous figures also carved by Reid.

Object information

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