Tiwi Mortuary Basket, Australia
height 17in (44cm)
Natural earth pigments on eucalyptus bark
Collected 1950s at Bathhurst/Melville Island
Private American Collection
The tunga comes from the Tiwi Islands and is a basket/container formed of a sheet of bent bark with a circular opening at one end and a closure at the bottom; with the sides held in place with pandanus. The tunga has traditional designs of natural earth pigments on each side decorated with patterns inspired by ceremonial body painting and used in the mortuary ceremony where it is placed upon a pukumani pole.
Cf. Aboriginal Australia, Australian Gallery Directors Council, Sydney, 1981, Pages 178-179, examples of similar tiwi bark baskets used in the mortuary ceremony.