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© Johnny Bulun Bulun/ Licensed by Viscopy, 2017

Stringybark canoe

Date: 1990
Overall: 600 x 4140 x 870 mm
Vessel Dimensions: 4.14 m × 0.87 m (13.58 ft × 2.85 ft)
Medium: Stringybark (eucalyptus tetradonta)
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © Johnny Bulun Bulun
Classification:Vessels and fittings
Object Name: Canoe
Object No: 00017960
Place Manufactured:Gamedi

User Terms

    John Bulun Bulun, a prominent artist and representative of the Ganalbingu people, made this canoe, called a 'derrka', while he was living on an outstation at Gamedi.

    The canoe is made from stringy bark (eucalyptus tetradonta) a common eucalypt across northern Australia. It has a tall and relatively straight trunk from which the bark is cut in one cylindrical piece.

    The canoe is about 10mm thick. The bark piece has been soaked with water and steamed over a fire to heat it and make it easier to shape. The ends are sewn together with fibre and sealed with mud, fibres and bark to make them watertight. The bow is carefully shaped to a fine cut back prow and sewn together along the top edge. This shape allows the canoe to part tall grass in the swamp while being poled from a standing position.

    The canoe is just over 4 metres long and almost 900 mm wide. To form a shallow cross-sectional shape the canoe features at least two branches placed horizontally to hold the sides apart. It also has two fibre strand ties to ensure the sides remain pulled in against these branch beams. Throughout the main body of the canoe the sides are almost parallel and each side is supported on the outside with a branch acting like a gunwale timber. This branch is sewn to the bark.

    This type of canoe was developed with its characteristic sharp bow and shallow draft so that it could be poled through grass and pass over snags and obstacles in the shallow water of the flood plain created following the rainy season. When the canoe reached the open water of the river system, they were paddled by hand, seated.
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