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Indigenous Symbols, Icons and Imagery

Indigenous Australia – Iconography and Symbols
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.

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

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 Napangardi.

Bush Banana © Trephina Sultan

The bush banana also feature in other creative works by Aboriginal artists, such as the following Bush Banana beanie by Lena Campbell from the community Titjikala in the Northern Territory. This artistic work was created for the 2022 Alice Springs Beanie Festival.

Bush Banana by Lena Campbell - Alice Springs Beanie Festival 2022
Bush Banana by Lena Campbell – Alice Springs Beanie Festival 2022

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. In Western Australia, Kalgoorlie and the suburb of Karlkurla take their names from a Wangai word meaning ‘place of the silky pears’. In the Flinders Ranges it is known as Myakka.

Bush Banana © June Sultan

Check out our page in the Flora & Fauna section: Bush Banana Flora – Information

Women and children gathering bush banana © Trephina Sultan

Footnote & References

  1. US Mob Fact Sheet 2.1 –  Different Foods in Arrernte Country
    Reproduced from IAD Press (www.iad.edu.au/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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsdenia_australis
  3. Lena Campbell, Ausemade, Alice Springs Beanie Festival and Exhibition