Unique Aboriginal rainforest art on show at the South Australian Museum

04 November 2016

Manggan bagu


Emerging from a rainforest canopy and a culture spanning countless generations comes the spectacular work of Girringun artists in Queensland to the South Australian Museum.

Opening this Friday, 4 November, the Manggan: gather, gathers, gathering exhibition is a collection of works, created at Girringun, an Aboriginal Art Centre located in far North Queensland in between Townsville and Cairns.

The Manggan exhibition was a project brought to the South Australian Museum by the Girringun artists who wanted to use the museum’s collections and audience to express and explore their own dynamic cultural traditions.

The South Australian Museum’s Head of Anthropology, John Carty said this exhibition is a great opportunity to inspire in all people a wonder and curiosity about Aboriginal culture.

“What is important about this exhibition is that it expresses and transforms the trajectory about the South Australian Museum in relation to our Aboriginal collection and Aboriginal communities around the country.”

“We are honoured to be showcasing the work of Girringun artists and watching historical collections come to life through their contemporary artist practice. It’s a major shift for the South Australian Museum to be collaborating on exhibitions that Aboriginal people determine are important. In that sense, Girringun artists are leading the way forward not just in their own culture, but in the culture of museums.” he said.

The creations express the stories and environments of the Girringun people and their evolving rainforest culture through contemporary art including bicornual baskets (Jawun), Mindis, special documentaries, photographs and the Bagu with Jiman – the mystical spirit of fire and a significant object of the rainforest.

Girringun Artist Debbie Murray said the Bagu with Jiman is a traditional fire-making tool, made in a variety of shapes and patterns, each with their own meaning and understanding.

“The fire-sticks are made up of two parts, the Bagu (body) and Jiman (sticks) – the Bagu is usually made from the Milky Pine Tree and Jiman from Wild Guava” she said.

Also on display as part of the Manggan Exhibition and a product of the Girringun rainforest is the Jawun –a lawyer cane bicornual basket. Girramay, Jirrbal and Gulnay weavers of Far North Queensland are well known for these traditional baskets.

Self-taught Master Weaver, Abe Muriata said the Jawun was an important part of everyday life – used to carry food, messages, babies and more.

“I explore different techniques to create finely crafted bicornual baskets unique to rainforest people. I taught myself how to weave by watching my grandmother make them when I was younger, I also study old artefacts in museums to inspire my own Jawun technique.” he said.

The Manggan exhibition is free and open to the public from 4 November 2016 - 29 January 2016. For further information see: https://www.samuseum.sa.gov.au/explore/exhibitions/manggan-gather-gathers-gathering