Medium: Wood, Human hair, Reddish brown aged patina, 19th century
Dimensions: L. 8
Origin: Pitjanbabarh Tribe, Western Australia
Provenance: James Pongrass Collection, James Davidson Collection, Melbourne, Australia, Fenster Collection, Collected 1918
Davidson was a well known collector and author on numerous works on Aboriginal and Pacific Island Art.
Exhibited: Private Museum, Xiamen; China 2011, University of Houston Community College 2015
The use of the bull-roarer’s sound to separate women (nature-bound) from men (culture-bearers) seems to be corroborated by Australian Aboriginal usage of bull-roarers for fertility rituals or “increase-ceremonies” with secret-sacred character (Lévi-Strauss, 1966, pp. 354–357). However, there are also exceptions, as the Ungarinyin know of “female” bull-roarers. In general, Aboriginal devices of this sort are described under the Aranda term tjurunga, and in all tribal regions they embody the spirit, the essence, and the vital forces of the heroes and creator-spirits of the Dreaming. The spiritual power of these beings can be activated through ritual use of bull-roarers to affect procreation. Some tribal groups maintain that bull-roarers already exist in specific trees and have only to be “set free” through the ritual act of carving. Certain specific acts, such as shaving particles from a tjurunga and blowing them over the landscape or reciting and singing stories of the Dreaming featuring the totemic ancestors represented in and through a tjurunga, have the effect of continuing procreation of all nature (Petri and Worms, 1968).
Generally speaking, tjurunga denote sacred stone or wooden objects possessed by private or group owners together with the legends, chants, and ceremonies associated with them. They were present among the Arrernte, the Luritja, the Kaitish, the Unmatjera, and the Illpirra. These items are most commonly oblong pieces of polished stone or wood. Some of these items have hair or string strung through them and were named “bull roarers” by Europeans. Upon each tjurunga is a totem of the group to which it belongs. Tjurunga are highly sacred, in fact, they are considered so sacred that only a few are able to see them and likewise it is considered sacrilegious to publish a picture of them. Durkheim suggests that the name “churinga” is normally a noun, but can also be used as an adjective meaning “sacred”.
The term Tjurunga was translated by Carl Strehlow to mean something similar to secret and personal. Tju means “hidden” or “secret”, and runga means “that which is personal to me”. Kempe argued against this translation and suggested that Tju means “great”, “powerful”, or “sacred” and that runga did not translate into personal ownership. (Ref. Wikipedia)