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Aboriginal Tourism - Indigenous Australia - Iconography and Symbols
The dotted motifs of much of today’s Aboriginal modern design work has become the trademark of the contemporary Aboriginal Art movement. Its iconic status developed from a culture stretching back into the history of an ancient land, evolving and weaving into desert dreamtime stories.

Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for many thousands of years. One of the secrets to their success was their knowledge of nature and ‘bush food’ (‘bush tucker’).

There is an extensive range of native plants that the aboriginal people used from food to medicine, one of them is the 'bush banana'. An important food source, the bush banana is often portrayed in indigenous artwork.

Click here to read about the ‘Bush Banana’ (Leichhardtia australis) plant.

Banana (Bush Tucker) - Aboriginal Symbols, Icons and Imagery

SymbolsBush TuckerBush Banana GoannaHoney AntsWitchetty GrubsWildlife
Banana (Bush Food) © June Sultan
Banana © June Sultan
Banana © Trephina Sultan
Banana © Trephina Sultan
Banana © Audrey Rubuntja
Banana © Audrey Rubuntja
Banana © Trephina Sultan
Banana © Trephina Sultan
Known as Bush banana, Doubah, Native pear or Silky pear, the bush banana is a climbing woody vine found growing on other shrubs and trees, and often difficult to see among the trees own leaves.

The bush banana has creamy flowers, and thick narrow leaves that grow from a short stalk. The fruiting pod is pear-shaped, hence its other common names.

An important Aboriginal food, the sweet flower and young fruits are eaten raw, being the most favoured parts of the plant. The seeds are also lightly roasted for consumption When the seed matures, it consists mainly of bitter seeds and their plumes. The seeds are discarded and only the thick outer rind eaten. The young leaves are also eaten, whilst the older leaves are eaten after being steamed. Even the roots are eaten during times of food shortage. The only parts not eaten are the stems and fine roots.

The Bush Banana is a totemic plant that often features in Aboriginal mythology and can be found in many Aboriginal paintings.

The Eastern and Central Arrernte word for banana - wild banana fruit are alangkwe, lutye. The bush banana fruit translation is Merne alangkwe, the bush banana flower is Merne ulkantyerrknge and the bush banana leaves is Merne altyeye. The small fruits are called amwerterrpe. The plant is called altyeye. The root of the plant is called atnetye.1

Bush Banana (Leichhardtia australis)

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Subfamily: Asclepiadoideae
Genus: Leichhardtia
Species: L. australis
Bush bananas are one of the common bush foods that are featured as part of many paintings. They are also featured in a number of ‘Bush Banana Dreaming’ paintings by artist such as those by Christopher Japangardi Poulson / Yuparli Jukurrpa, Deidrie Napangardi Brown, Janet Forrester Ngala and Dorothy Abbott Napangardi.
Women and children gathering bush bananas © Trephina Sultan
Women and children gathering bush bananas © Trephina Sultan


1 US Mob Fact Sheet 2.1 -  Different Foods in Arrernte Country
Reproduced from IAD Press ( from the following publications produced by IAD Press: Eastern and Central Arrernte to English Dictionary, A Learner's Wordlist of Eastern and Central Arrernte and A Town Like Mparntwe.
2 Marsdenia australis. (2008, June 28). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:05, August 12, 2008, from
3 Christopher Japangardi Poulson / Yuparli Jukurrpa Bush ‘Banana Dreaming’. Aboriginal Art Shop. Retrieved August 12, 2008.
4 Deidre Napangardi Brown. Australian Dreamtime Creations.
5 Janet Forrester Ngala. Original & Authentic Aboriginal Art.
Aboriginal Art and Symbolism Guide © AusEmade PL
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