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Longtom (garfish)

Date: 1991
Overall: 50 x 780 x 95 mm, 0.85 kg
Medium: Ochre, wood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Sculpture
Object No: 00015579
Place Manufactured:Maningrida

User Terms

    Carved from a single piece of timber this sculptural piece represents a longtom of northern Arnhem Land. These fish are food source and related to the garfish; they have a similar sweet flesh and plentiful bones.
    SignificanceThis carved figurative sculpture is an expression of the artist interpreting a fish species fished in his area of Maningrida in the Northern Territory.
    HistoryCarved figurative sculptures can be central elements in rituals and are associated with spirit and totemic beings connected to particular sites. Specific social groups or clans use these objects in ceremonies which can include dance and song where the object is carried or used as a focal point.

    They can also be an expression of the artist interpreting his or her land, everyday occurrences and specific animals endemic to their area. A poker-burned carved wood animal is a traditional Aboriginal craft done mostly for trade and tourists.

    Different types of wood are used according to region. Ironwood is both heavy and hard, limiting the amount of detail that can be achieved which is compensated for by the very detailed painting that decorates the figure. Soft woods allow extensive incising. A complete section of the carving is painted with a solid colour and patterns are created by incising through the colour to the yellowish wood.

    The longtom belongs to the same family as garfish and flying fish and are long, slender fish that can skip over the water for long distances. They have long jaws with many sharp teeth and are found in the open sea and in estuaries. Longtoms are plentiful in northern Australian waters.

    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Longtom carving

    Web title: Longtom (garfish)

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