Churinga or Tjurunga

Artist: Unknown
Culture/People: Australian Aborginal, Arrernte (Aranda, Arunta)
Place: Austraila
Media: wood and pigment
Dims: 17.25 x 5.75 in.
Date: c. 1940
RTC No: OC0050
Gift of Ralph T. Coe, 2011


A Churinga or Tjurunga is thought to be an object of wood or stone made by various aboriginal tribes of Central Australia and that is often elliptical in shape, bears incised designs, is believed to represent either the spiritual double of a living native or the embodiment of the spirit of a totemic ancestor.

Hands-On curator, Qootsvenma “Taka” Denipah-Cook (Ohkay Owingeh) studied and wrote about this piece for the Hands-On 2018 exhibition, Eye Opener.

This board originates from Australia. The entities depicted are mythological Mimi figures. They’re little mischievous beings that taught the Aboriginals how to hunt and survive. The board made a personal connection with me when I learned what they are. They remind me of Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars. They also remind me of my family out in Hopi where they also have stories of little beings. —Qootsvenma “Taka” Denipah-Cook (Ohkay Owingeh)

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