Arrernte Churinga - Northern Territory, Australia

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. 

The present churinga, which comes from the Arrernte people in central Australia near Alice Springs, is an exceptionally large, early, and beautiful example of its type. Incised ridges texture and decorate its full face, neutral horizontal lines contrasting with asymmetrically deployed sections of angles and indistinct meanders. One end of the churinga features a twin chevron design with circle, while the opposite end bears joined zigzag bands and outlined shapes akin to stones. At the center of the churinga is an organic, multi-angled space that contains a host of crawling ridges. The overall impression is highly enigmatic. The surface of the piece shows a shadowy blend of very dark reddish and blackish browns, colors which were likely more distinct at an earlier period but which have dimmed and blurred together from age and patina.

19th century
Wood, ochre
54” h
Provenance:
- Faith-Dorian and Martin Wright Collection, New York
#589
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