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Many different types of spears were made on Groote Eylandt including shovel nose, hooked spears (memelerrbirra) and the fishing spear. Spears are made in either hardwood from the stringybark tree (alabura) or softwood from the yellow hibiscus tree (mabanda) or the spear bush (kwuralba) . Hunting spears, once armed with wooden or stone points (miyarnawa), now have blades fashioned from car springs; bone and wooden prongs of the fish spears are replaced by filed fence wire. Spears were traditionally made for hunting ,dancing, ceremony, fighting with other tribes and pay back crimes. Barbed one-piece hardwood spears have a long barbed head, usually on one side only. The barbs are often referred to as ‘hooks’, and on Groote Eylandt, ‘hooked’ spears with a variety of forms were individually carved from a single piece of Darwin stringy-bark (Eucalyptus tetrodonta). This spear was used almost entirely for fighting and that in recent years (that is, by the 1930s) these had gone out of general use and were manufactured mostly as a demonstration of carving skill. Groote Eylandt people divide their spears into those made from a single piece of wood and those having the head separate from the shaft. It was observed that the use of light bamboo-shafted spears by the east Arnhem Landers gave them an advantage over people from Groote Eylandt, who used heavier spear forms. It was also noted that Bambusa Arhnemica grows only in the wetter parts of the Northern Territory and that access to this shaft material in eastern Arnhem Land was entirely through trade.


Rodrick Mamarika
1 artwork

Catalog Number: 17-3778

Size: 212 cm