Topsy Tjulyata, the maker of this punu (carving) implement, was born in 1931. In early 1983 Topsy and her husband Walter Pukutiwara, were two of the key artists that participated in a series of consultations in the Pitjantjatjara-Yankunytjatjara Lands to discuss a 'regional' craft centre at Uluru. The outcome was Maruku Arts, an artist co-operative that opened in 1984 and now serves more than 800 artists from 18 communities, selling their punu at an outlet at the base of Uluru.
This wire was used by Topsy to incise walka on the piti (bowls) and animals she creates to sell at Maruku Arts. Topsy is one of the most renowned, prolific and widely exhibited carvers and her work is often recognisable by her signature circular walka.

Anangu (people from the southeast and west of Central Australia) have been producing their traditional weapons and utensils made from punu (wood) for countless generations.
More recently, they have developed the technique of incising punu with walka (designs) using hot wire. Anangu working as stockmen and drovers on cattle stations learnt the effect of using red hot wire as a branding technique and they incorporated this into their punu work. Women artists have incorporated pokerwork designs into a range of their wooden crafts including animal carvings, bowls and jewellery.

Physical Description

Iron, used for decorating artefacts. Slim wire with straight centre length and both ends twisted into hooks. Some areas of wire fire-darkened.


In making punu people often go together to gather the wood, and then sit around a fire out bush or outside their houses to carve and decorate the wood with pokerwork. The older artists will often sing the stories of the punu as they carve and draw, whilst the younger people sit with them, watching and listening. Celebrating culture through practices such as carving and weaving is an important social and cultural event. The manufacture of items such as carvings, baskets, body adornments and utensils often happens in groups and on Country and has been an important part of Aboriginal culture all over Australia for countless generations.
Maruku Arts chairperson and punu maker Billy Cooley reflects on the intergenerational importance of punu;

'I remember thinking how those old people must have learnt from watching their old folk the same way I was doing. Now my sons and daughters watch me and Lulu and learn to do carving, painting and walka boards. My granddaughter is learning too. We are in the 21st century now and it's a new thing for us to keep all these old pieces so the future generations can see them, all their families' work, their grandparents' punu. Later, the great great grandchildren can feel proud and happy and maybe they'll keep all this good work going for their future generations.' Billy Cooley, 2015.
Exhibition Catalogue 2015, Punuku Tjukurpa: Wood Carving Stories, Maruku Arts

More Information