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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’).

Among the many plants that were collected for food are berries, bush berries.

Among the berries collected for bush tucker are a type of berry known as bush raisins, also known as bush sultanas, and bush tomatoes.

Women gathering bush tucker (extract) © June Sultan
Women gathering bush tucker (extract) © June Sultan

Often depicted in paintings about bush tucker or women collecting bush food, it is one of the popular symbols that appear in Aboriginal art.

In the following extract from a painting titled Women teaching children about bush tucker by Trephina Sultan Thanguwa, among the many symbols shown are depiction of the bush raisin (bush tomato).

Women teaching children about bush tucker (extract from painting), 2008 © Trephina Sultan Thanguwa
Women teaching children about bush tucker (extract from painting), 2008 © Trephina Sultan Thanguwa

In this extract from another painting by Trephina Sultan Thanguwa, you can also see the honey ants encircled by bush raisins.

Bush tomato and honey ants (extract from painting), 2008 © Trephina Sultan Thanguwa
Bush tomato and honey ants (extract from painting), 2008 © Trephina Sultan Thanguwa

In this painting Families hunting and gathering, you can see the bush raisins a staple that is included in paintings about bush tucker.

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

The fruit are a tiny tomato-like berry, which turn from green to yellow when ripe. When purchased commercially in the dried form, either whole or ground, the fruit appear as a brownish-red colour with a taste that is similar to caramelized sun-dried tomatoes.

  • Akudjura — Bush Tomato
  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Division: Magnoliophyta
  • Class: Magnoliopsida
  • Order: Solanales
  • Family: Solanaceae
  • Genus: Solanum
  • Species: S. centrale

  • Language Name
  • English name: Bush tomato, bush raisin, bush sultana
  • Arrernte name: Merne akatyerre (the Arrernte term ‘merne’ means ‘fruit or nut’).
  • Eastern Arrernte: Awele-awele, Alperrantyeye.
  • Alyawarr name: Akatjurra, Akudjurra, Akajura, Akadjura
  • Pitjantjatjara: Kampurarpa, Kampurrarpa, Kutjera

Check out our page in the Flora & Fauna section: Solanum and Bush Tomato

Bush Tomatoes © Trephina Sultan
Bush Tomatoes © Trephina Sultan