Lot 7
  • 7

A Bicornual Basket or Jawun, North East Queensland Late 19th Century

4,000 - 6,000 GBP
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  • Woven lawyer cane
  • 25.5cm high by 25cm wide
Woven lawyer cane


Aboriginal and Pacific Art, Melbourne
The Thomas Vroom Collection, The Netherlands

Catalogue Note

Cf. For an extensive discussion of the history, construction methods and use of Queensland rainforest baskets see Ewington, J., Working The River: Baskets Of The Rainforest and Henry, D. with T. Johnson, Jawun: An interview with Desley Henry, in Queensland Art Gallery's catalogue of the exhibition, Story Place: Indigenous Art of Cape York and the Rainforest, 2003, pp.158-169. This catalogue features several illustrations of historical and contemporary bicornual baskets; for examples of 19th Century baskets see Caruana, W., Aboriginal Art, World of Art Series, Thames and Hudson, London and New York, 2003, illus. p.184, pl.161, in the collection of the Museum of Victoria; Davies, S. M. with R. Stack, Collected: 150 Years of Aboriginal Art and Artifacts at the Macleay Museum, The University of Sydney, Sydney, 2002, illus. p.77, pl.88; Morphy, H., Aboriginal Art, Phaidon, London, 1998, illus. p.347, pl.231, in the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford.

Morphy says, “The two-cornered baskets made from lawyer cane are striking and elegant objects. The mouth of the basket is circular; the body opens out with curved lines ending in sharply pointed corners. The form seems to be the architectural product of a mathematical formula combining strength with flexibility, a highly complex form based on simple principles... these rare objects epitomise the rich basketry traditions that exist throughout Australia wherever the raw materials are available.” (ibid)

The baskets are made by the people in the rainforest area from around Cooktown in the north, to the Cardwell area in the south on the eastern coast of Cape York. Historically, they were made by men and used by women, although in more recent times women have made them too. Jawun have a variety of purposes: they are used as carrying baskets with the handle looped around the forehead; as fish traps in rivers where the horns of the baskets allow them to be wedged between sticks or rocks; and as sieves to leach out toxic substances from a variety of bush food.