Aboriginal Symbols of Bush Food
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Indigenous Symbols, Icons and Imagery

One of the popular topics depicted in Aboriginal artworks include imagery of bush tucker, whether it is the iconic honey ants, witchetty grubs, bush banana, bush tomatoes, goanna, yam etc.

Witchetty Grub
Witchetty Grub

In many instances, bush food is a term used to cover both plants and animals, with some plants and animals also used as bush medicine. The versatility of some plants and animals, means they can also be utilised in construction of tools and weapons.

In their depiction, many artists stamp their own unique way of portraying the bush tucker, whether it is a close facsimile of the bush tucker or a modern take that may emphasise a particular pattern. Specific types of bush food can vary in the way it is depicted, quite often the way a particular bush tucker plant is painted in artwork can be similar, the style being passed down through the families of artists.

Bush beans, bush tomato, wild orange, passion fruit — Bush Tucker © Audrey Rubuntja

One of the popular themes painted by Aboriginal women artist is the Women gathering bush tucker. Often the painting including symbols of the women (sometimes with children), diggings sticks and colamons.

In the following work by Audrey Rubuntja, she has depicted passion fruit, banana, figs (in the middle), orange (to the right), sultanas (also known as bush tomato) and beans.

Woman gathering bush tucker © Audrey Rubuntja
Woman gathering bush tucker, 2008 © Audrey Rubuntja

In the following painting by Clarabelle Swift, she depicts carpet snakes, goanna and their eggs, that are hunted and gathered by her people.

Carpet Snake and Goanna, 2008 © Clarabelle Swift
Carpet Snake and Goanna, 2008 © Clarabelle Swift

In this painting by Trephina Sultan Thanguwa, she depicts women hunting and gathering. Among the items painted including honey ants, witchetty grubs, bush raisins, as well as bush medicine (depicted by the yellow spiral shapes).

Women hunting and gathering, 2008 © Trephina Sultan Thanguwa
Women hunting and gathering, 2008 © Trephina Sultan Thanguwa

Source header image: Coolamons with seeds collected from the bush © Gallery Gondwana