Unknown artist
Kunwinjku people
'Shield ' pre 1940

Purchased 1990

The Yamatji are the Aboriginal people of the Murchison, Gascoyne and Pilbara coastal regions of the north-west of Western Australia. 'Wunda' or 'woonda' is said to be derived from 'wurnda', the Palyku name of an unidentified wood used to make these shields.

This example is a flat, oblong shape with slightly curving sides and rounded ends, painted with a geometrical design in natural pigments, in brown and white. Eleven white lines are painted from each end of the shield for one-third of its length, and then turn right at a forty-five degree angle so that in the course of the middle third of its length they disappear off the shield's edge. It is a very sophisticated design, for it means that twenty-two lines are visible in the middle third of the shield, and making all lines both enter and leave the shield's surface implies that what is visible is merely a fragment of a much larger pattern that conceivably continues to infinity in all directions.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

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