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Sail and mast boom for dugout canoe

Date: July - September 1988
Overall: 2740 × 1590 × 50 mm, 7.9 kg
Medium: Calico, stringybark rope and hardwood
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Vessels and fittings
Object Name: Boom
Object No: 00001831
Place Manufactured:Borroloola

User Terms

    Calico sail and hardwood mast boom for a dugout canoe. Made by Annie Karrakayn and Ida Ninganga from the Yanyuwa clan and Issac Walayunkuma from the Garrawa clan in Borroloola, Northern Territory, Australia.
    SignificanceIssac Walayunkuma, who was responsible fo the production of the mast and sail, is an experienced canoe maker who worked on canoes when they were constructed for traditional use. He became involved in the making of this canoe as part of his commitment to ensure that traditional Yanyuwa skills were recorded and handed on to future generations.
    HistoryThis canoe an its parts, was specifically commissioned by the Australian Maritime Museum in 1987 in an attempt to record and preserve a record of the tradition and methods of canoe construction in the Borroloola region.
    In keeping with Yanyuwa tradition the canoe is called 'Rra-Kalwanyimara', which can be translated literally as “the female one from Kalwanyi'. As Annie Karrakayn puts it: 'All the canoe got name... [from the] country where they come from'.
    The Yanyuwa history of canoe making is a good example of Aboriginal culture's quick response to change. Dugout, and later aluminium, canoes were readily adopted by the Yanyuwa as they were a better version of the bark canoes they already had. As such they represent cultural change very much on Yanyuwa terms. The use of dugout canoes allowed the Yanyuwa to exploit their environment in new ways. Resources such as bird and turtle eggs on isolated islands could be obtained and previous activities such as turtle and dugong hunting would have been both safer and more productive.
    This canoe took around 720 hours to make and if in traditional use would last up to 2 - 5 years, soetimes less. It would take a lot of maintenance to keep the canoe in working order however and patching up leaks by using bark, ochre, mud and later metal tacks and tar was a constant. When aluminium canoes became available in the 1960's the move to them was inevitable and saw a decline in the production and thus knowledge of dugout canoe techniques.
    Prior to dugout canoes, bark canoes were made. However many advantages came with the introduction of the dugout.One was that they are sturdy enough to allow the erection of a mast and sail. As well as making the canoes faster and saving much effort in paddling, the sails added to the handling of canoes ."The anthropologist Donald Thomson, who made great use of both canoe types in his travels in northern Australia, notes that sails, "helped steady the craft in a following sea' . It should be noted, however, that sails of a sort were used in paperbark canoes. A number of people have described to me branches being put up in paperbark canoes as sails." (page 181, Barker, Richard. "Yanyuwa Canoe Making", Records of the South Australian Museum, 1988).

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