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.

One face of this smaller churinga is worked with carving across its entire surface, with rectilinear shapes and meanders visually knitted by alternating diagonal scoring. The other side, with boomerang-shaped curves of four lines facing in both directions, bears a residue that may be a mixture of ochre and feathers. It is uncommon to encounter churinga with such applications, but not unheard of. Remnants of ceremonial substances would normally be cleaned away before the object was given to its owner, and the presence of such material on a churinga certainly increases its rarity.

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.


Late 19th century
15” h 2” w
Provenance: Kilton Riggs Stewart
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