Woomera Engraved Fluted Composite Wolmi
Pelican Nest Dreaming Creation Hero Sturt Creek Kimberley W.A.
ARTIST: Tommy Chumpah Waldmadjiri Sturt Creek Station & others unknown
DIMENSIONS: L 62cm (24.5inches) W 10cm (4inches).
MATERIAL: Kimberley Hardwood (iron wood), Spinifex resin, chert tula, bush string.
CONDITION: Undamaged. Aged marked as collected. Deep rich rubbed dark aged patina. Face displays wood growth seam on L/H side length. Vestige of animal fat & red ochre infill decoration in fluted channels. Fully intact peg & tula chisel fixed with spinifex resin & bush string. Some age shrinkage of resin around peg & tula.
AGE: Mid c 20.
ETHNOGRAPHY: This Woomera example is a fully multi functional composite spear thrower (wood working chisel, fire plow, shield ,deflector, pallet , plate, cleaver, chopper, club etc.) However the intended primary significant role is to provide a vehicle for the engraved fluted mythological totemic design. The interpretation of the design is a layered grouping of both inside sacred & outside secular mythology. The intrinsic intent & inherent part of the design is purely aesthetic presentation. All traditional Aboriginal men & women who have handled & commented on this work have been moved to express deep admiration of the subtle beauty of this fluted line masterpiece.
Tommy Chumpah offered that he fluted the design purposefully to “make him pretty fella”. While Tommy weakly denied being the sole artist, other family members identify him as the sole creator. This is indicative of an oblique reference to the design being collectively owned & managed by a number of traditional owner clan groups in the Waldmadjirri language group estate & may also involve ritual rights for neighbouring land owning language groups.
The open secular mythological story imbedded in the design details the Pelican Creation Hero nesting grounds & the building of nest sites, down the full length of the Sturt Creek catchment to Lake Gregory south of Balgo. Pelican nest dreaming. Other layers of the non interrogated information in the design involve song cycles, traditional estate ownership title (Owners, managers, custodians, stewards) ceremonial & ritual etiquette, body decoration & named owned localities.
APPRAISAL: This spear thrower Waldmadjeri Pelican Nest Dreaming Woomera is unquestionably the finest & the most sublime beautiful unsurpassed example of this art form to be seen anywhere. It will stand out on its own in any great collection as a dreamlike masterpiece of incomparable subtle beauty. The line work flow on the face has no parallel or equal. It is unique & wonderful. At some stage images of this piece are going to have a major impact on art perceptions in general worldwide.
PROVENANCE: Arthur Beau Palmer Family Collection.
Collected by Palmer in 1978, 40 miles north of Billaluna Station on the Halls Creek road Kimberley, W.A. during pick up of Traditional Owners for the inaugural meeting of the Kimberly Land Council at Nookanbah Station. The Woomera was on the floor of a ute tray loaded with women & children, amongst other items of traditional material culture; digging sticks, clubs, coolomon, boomerangs & food.
Palmer was over this period Field Officer, Daly –VRD Region – Head of Land Claims NLC N.T.
National Gallery of Australia Collection. National Treasure Status
L to R Paddy Padoon & Tommy Chumpa. Sturt Creek Station Armoured Knight Rock Art Engraved Site Palm Springs 1978