This container is of a type typically made by Aboriginal people around Australia's coastline in that it comprises a single sheet of folded and stitched bark, or in this instance, a large palm leaf. Some containers were made quickly on the spot for one use and discarded afterwards, while others like this are more robust and kept and reused over time. It was collected by Baldwin Spencer who was hosted on Bathurst and Melville Islands in 1911 by the legendary buffalo shooter, Joe Cooper. The two men had met in Darwin the year before, and their collaboration resulted in over a thousand objects being collected mainly from Tiwi people on the islands, but also from mainlanders, primarily Iwadja people, who worked directly for Cooper in his camp. Spencer is known to have purposely purchased a bolt of coloured cloth in Darwin to take with him on this trip to use as a commodity of exchange. No doubt he also traded for important artefacts with sticks of tobacco.

Physical Description

A single palm leaf folded and stitched to form a container. It is painted with natural pigments of ochres (red and yellow) and white pipe clay. The handle is a bent stick stitched into the fold on opposite sides. A dingo tail is attached to one side with human hair string.

Local Name



Tiwi people make containers from large palm leaves folded and stitched at the sides. Walter Baldwin Spencer collected an extraordinary array of bark and leaf containers from Bathurst and Melville Islands, each painted with a unique design using natural pigments.

More Information