One of my abiding childhood memories from the three years we lived in Australia is buying a long tailed lizard from the aborigine boy who whittled and polished it. I have packed and taken it right around the world several times and it sits in my cabinet of curiosities still. I don’t recall on which trip out into the bush this was, or even where, beyond the safety of suburban Adelaide, we were, but I do remember the boy’s rough hands and his toothy smile and thinking how very different his life was to mine.
Beyond the paintings, there is much to learn from the artefacts on display. Things I did not know included the number of different types of boomerang there are, the purpose of a biting bag and the existence of a honey gathering hook. There are cross shaped boomerangs for hunting flying foxes. The biting bag or spirit bag is for male use in mortuary rights and initiation, bitten to access spiritual powers. It contains feathers, plant fibres and other objects. The honey gathering hook is used to collect flowers from grevillea trees. Fascinating and each object very beautifully made for its given purpose.
Casting around for the most beautiful things, I was taken by the collection of exquisitely fashioned spearheads made in the 1930s from coloured glass bottles, telegraph pole insulators and stone. So much careful work for one throw of the spear at kangaroo bone. Check it out yourself, but be warned, the rooms are very hot, like the red earth country from which these treasures come.