Australia Unknown – Unknown
Jawun [Bicornual basket]
19th - 20th Century
Rainforest Region, Queensland, Australia
Materials & Technique: fibrework, baskets, lawyer cane
In the earliest collecting forays of Indigenous material culture in Australia and the Torres Strait Islands, the collectors – usually anthropologists or missionaries – often neglected to record the identity of the creators, as the objects were considered more important than their makers. Consequently, a large number of early works, including this bicornual basket, are noted as having been produced by ‘maker unknown’.
Baskets like this were made for hunting, harvesting, collecting and cleansing foods, and in ceremony (when ochred).
Undecorated baskets were used for gathering food, even for catching fish, as well as for leaching toxins from poisonous plants. Bigger baskets were also used to ferry goods and babies across rivers. Baskets painted with natural pigments, such as ochres, were used by men to carry ceremonial or sacred objects, for trading purposes and as gifts.
Such objects were in wide use in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, after which time their use and profile diminished.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008