Australian Aboriginal 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.

Both sides of this beautiful churinga present similar compositions, featuring a single spiral motif and serpentine bands flowing vertically through fields of tripled horizontal lines. One side shows a pair of undulating bands while the reverse bears a trio. The uncarved portions of the terra cotta-colored wood are treated with light scoring, and some areas appear to have been blackened either before or after the designs were applied.

This churinga was acquired in the mid-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.


First half of 20th century
19” h 2 ½” w
Provenance: Kilton Riggs Stewart
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