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Tunga bag (Wangatunga and Yimwarlini)

Date: 1995
550 x 430 x 260 mm, 1.55 kg
Medium: Pandanus leaves, ochres, stringybark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Ceremonial artefact
Object Name: Bag
Object No: 00019477
Place Manufactured:Melville Island

User Terms

    HistoryBurial rituals (Pukumani) are based on the teachings of ancestral spirits. The elaborately carved and painted poles (tutini) are placed around the grave of a Tiwi person.

    The poles are commissioned by the dead person's family along with new songs, dances and body paint designs. The works placate the spirit of the dead and ensure safe travel to the spirit world where it will dwell forever. Tunga (woven and painted bark baskets) are placed on top of poles at the end of the Pukumani funeral ceremony to signify the end of life. Each tutini is made from a single piece of carved bloodwood or ironwood that is intricately painted with natural ochres in abstract patterns unique to the Tiwi. The base is left bare as it is inserted into the ground.

    Early in the 20th century the Tiwi were moved into towns under the administration of non-Indigenous people and the Pukumani ceremony was banned. In 1976 the Tiwi regained control of their land under the Northern Territory Land Rights Act and this has led to a cultural revival of the Pukumani ceremony and some include Christian elements in the ritual.

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