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Painted ceremonial basket

Unknown maker, Mildjingi clan, Arnhem Land1920 - 1936

Museums Victoria

Museums Victoria
Carlton, Australia

Men's ceremonial baskets are the classic twined conical forms made by women from the split and dried leaves of the pandanus palm. Their conical shape represents a body form that is either painted with sacred designs or decorated with feathers, feathered string or string of animal fur, the string originating from that used to make sacred objects. Such baskets are distinguished by the terms 'bathi mindirr', 'bathi mindjalpi' or 'bathi giwilirr'. Despite being painted with these sacred designs and containing material embodied with ritual power, restrictions are not applied to the men's baskets being seen outside of ceremonies.

The anthropologist, Donald Thomson, who collected this basket, points out that while they are less sacred in this context, 'the slightest infringement' was looked for and resented. He defined the difference between classes of objects and broke them down into either sacred or profane. The bathi mindirr here is painted with the sacred designs belonging to the Mildjingi clan of Arnhem Land. The entire body of the bathi is painted with an iconic triangular motif representing 'djarrapung', the monsoonal clouds that bring the heavy wet season rains. This same patterning is seen in bark paintings produced for Donald Thomson and attributed to the Mildjingi artist, Makani Wilingarr. The same design is to be found painted on a 'bilma', or clapstick, and on the surface of the 'pamatuka', or smoking pipe, belonging to senior Mildjingi men also collected by Donald Thomson.

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  • Title: Painted ceremonial basket
  • Creator: Unknown maker, Mildjingi clan, Arnhem Land
  • Date Created: 1920 - 1936
  • Physical Dimensions: w114 x h260 x d114 mm
  • Type: Object
  • Rights: Unknown artist, Photographer: Rodney Start. The Donald Thomson Collection. Donated by Mrs. Dorita Thomson to the University of Melbourne and on loan to Museum Victoria.
  • External Link: Museum Victoria Collections
  • Medium: Woven vegetable fibre twine, natural pigments
  • Subject: Aboriginal art, weaving

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