Tjurunga – Western Desert, Australia
Medium: Wood, Aged reddish brown patina, 19th century
Dimensions: L. 17
Origin: Western Desert, Australia
Provenance: James Pongrass collection, James Davidson Collection, Melbourne, Australia
Davidson was a well known collector and author on numerous works on Aboriginal and Pacific Island Art.
Exhibited: Pelham von Stoffler Gallery, Houston 1978, Private Museum, Xiamen, China 2011, Katy Contemporary Art Museum, Katy, Texas, Vertical Sculpture 2014, University of Houston Community College 2015
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)