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  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Basket (tunga) made of folded eucalyptus bark, vegetable cane fibre, abrus seeds, resin and decorated with natural red, white and yellow pigments.

  • Ethnic name

  • Date

    • 1913 (before)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 67.4 centimetres
    • Width: 50.7 centimetres
    • Diameter: 40.5 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Tiwi Islanders carry out elaborate Pukumani ceremonies after a person’s death. These funerary ceremonies include elaborate body decoration, complex burial rites and numerous performances. They can take place over a lengthy period of time in order to fully mark the passing of that relative as well as express grief.

    Burial poles or tutini are painted with natural earth pigmentsand erected at specific grave sites: they represent the body of the deceased relative or possibly ancestors.

    Large bark baskets or tunga are also made specifically for these ceremonies. Various designs or jilmara, are painted on the body as well as on the baskets and burial poles. These designs can relate to a person’s identity, clan, country or dreaming. Gifts of food are brought to the funeral in tunga, and at the conclusion of the ceremony, they are upended on top of painted tutini. The painted tunga and tutini stand as a memorial to the deceased and their relatives and are left to be worn away by the elements.

    Artists continue to make tunga, often for commercial sale and use innovative interpretations of traditional beliefs.
    For contemporary versions see 2012,2032.1 & 2011,2014.1The bark is likely Darwin stringybark [Eucalyptus tetrodonta]


  • Bibliography

    • Bolton 2011 p.24 and 25 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited: 1972-1982 23 Jun-28 Feb, London, BM, Museum of Mankind, The Aborigines of Australia 2011 26 May-11 Sep, London, BM, G91, Baskets and Belonging: Indigenous Australian Histories 2015 23 Apr-2 Aug, London, BM, G35, Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation
    2015-2016 27 Nov-28 Mar, Canberra, National Museum of Australia, Encounters

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    9 February 2011

    Reason for treatment

    Temporary Exhibition

    Treatment proposal

    Light clean. Check and consolidate painted surface, resin along binding edges as necessary. Check and secure splits and splinters as necessary. Provide fitted sleeve for packing and handling.


    On the whole the basket is structurally stable with unstable areas at surfaces in places. Heavy ingrained dirt on inner surfaces of basket. Long splits in bark and following grain from opening of basket into main body of basket. Some movement in bark at splits. Disruption and losses to painted surfaces in places due to splits and splinters in bark. Small localised areas of unstable paint, particularly in areas of corresponding unstable underlying bark surfaces. White and red paint is particuarly unstable with loose and lifting areas. White paint appears to be loosely bound and unstable in places, particularly where most thickly applied. Areas of unstable and loose resin at sewn seams, particularly in areas of underlying root lashing. The root lashing is still largely flexible. Previous large losses to the resin at seams in places with underlying root lashing exposed. Areas of splits and splinters and raised bark surface, particularly around splits and on the inside of the basket. Some loose areas of root lashing at the opening of the basket and at exposed seams. Seeds applied to outer surfaces within resin appear to be well adhered but with some previous losses. Woven rope still attached to the basket at the opening is frayed at the ends, with surface dirt and stained.

    Treatment details

    Surfaces were cleaned with a soft bristle brush and museum vacuum cleaner with nylon gauze over the nozzle to remove loose dust and dirt. Large pieces of loose resin at the seams were adhered/secured in position to the underlying root lashing/bark surfaces with dots of 20% Paraloid B72 (ethyl methacrylate copolymer) w/v in 50:50 IMS/acetone. Loose resin was additionally supported in position to the underlying root lashing and bark surfaces with coloured Japanese tissue paper (used to fill gaps and cushion the resin) and adhered in position with Primal B60A 50:50 in deionised water. Loose and actively crumbling resin at the seams was consolidated with Primal B60A 50:50 in deionised water. Broken and loose root lashing adhered together and stabilised with backing repairs of coloured Japanese tissue paper adhered with arrowroot and sodium alginate paste (9:1). Splits in the bark with movement were supported on the inside of the basket as necessary with backing "butterfly" repairs of coloured Japanese tissue paper adhered in position with arrowroot and sodium alginate starch paste 9:1. Bark splinters were laid down with arrowroot and sodium alginate starch paste 9:1 and Primal B60A 50:50 in deionised water as necessary. Areas of unstable, fugitive and loosely-bound paint, particularly the white paint, was consolidated with Lascaux Medium for Conservation applied by brush. A heat-sealed Tyvek slip bag was made for the basket for packing so that acid-free tissue puffs could be placed around the basket without direct contact with the painted bark surfaces.

    About these records 

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Africa, Oceania & the Americas

  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • Oc1913C3.145 (old CDMS no.)
Basket made of bark.

Basket made of bark.

Image description



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Object reference number: EOC13980

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