Australian Churinga

Traditionally veiled in intense secrecy and revealed only to initiated men, churinga (or tjurunga) are representations or manifestations of living, ancestral or mythic beings and are connected in Australian Aboriginal cosmology to the eternal Dreamtime. Possessors of churinga had a powerfully personal bond with the objects and were sometimes buried with them.

Churinga bear a significant variety of surface designs, from flowing, asymmetric grooves to geometric designs and tightly drawn spirals, and often combine motifs in unique compositions. They are oval in form but vary greatly in size, and sometimes stand several feet tall. This smaller example features a trio of incised spiral motifs on both sides, joined by curved and vertical channels.

This churinga was acquired in the 1930s by Kilton Riggs Stewart (1902-1965), an anthropologist active from the 1920s to the 1960s. Stewart spent the majority of his career focused on the psychology of dreams, for which he traveled around the world on a number of field studies.

19th century
6.75” l  3” w
Provenance: Kilton Riggs Stewart
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