Australia 1928 – 1982
Bathurst and Melville Islands, Northern Territory, Australia
Materials & Technique: sculptures, natural pigments on eucalyptus bark, natural fibre
The basket with grid design in thickly applied pigment is likely to have been made directly for the outside market. Though such items are in use today, the ‘grid’ design relates strongly in mark-making to pukumani poles (and body painting), where a recurring pattern is achieved with a traditional tool, a wooden comb which is dipped into the pigment.
Beyond its inclusion in pukumani ceremony to adorn grave posts, the tunga has its place in a creation story of Melville Island:
Murtankala, an old blind woman, came out of the earth at Murupianga in the southeast of Melville Island. In a bark basket (tunga) on her back, she carried her three children and began a slow crawl north in search of food…she then made provision for her children by introducing animals and covering the bare islands with vegetation.
(Jackie Dunn, Kiripuranji: Contemporary Art from the Tiwi Islands, 2002, p.3)
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra