Art/ Collection/ Art Object


late 19th–early 20th century
Australia, probably western Queensland, Queensland or Victoria
Probably western Queensland
Wood, pigment
H. 5 13/16 x W. 26 3/8 in. (14.8 x 67 cm)
Credit Line:
The Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection, Bequest of Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1979
Accession Number:
Not on view
Artists in western Queensland created delicately engraved boomerangs adorned with geometric designs. Probably from the Boulia region, this boomerang is adorned along the inner and outer edges with shallow, semicircular motifs infilled with fine diagonal lines. According to one nineteenth-century account, among the Pitta-Pitta people these motifs are said to resemble the fine surface ripples on a body of water striking the bank and are called nar-pi ming-ka-ra, "riverbank marks." The narrow lozenge-shaped motifs that comprise the central lines are known as ma-li ming-ka-ra, "fishnet marks," and reportedly evoke the form of large fishnets folded up for travel. The markedly pointed ends on this work are commonly seen on boomerangs from this area and were purely decorative, created to enhance the beauty rather than the aerodynamics of the implement. Boomerangs in western Queensland were used for both hunting and fighting and were reportedly carried in pairs, while spears, shields, and other weapons were carried singly, although the reasons for this practice remain uncertain.
[Watson O'Dell Pierce, Archaeological Artifacts & Antiques, New York, until 1959]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1959, on permanent loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1959–1978

Lumholtz, Carl. Among Cannibals: An Account of Four Years' Travels in Australia and of Camp Life with the Aborigines of Queensland. New York: Charles Scribners' Sons, 1889, pp. 49–51.

Davidson, D.S. "Australian Throwing-Sticks, Throwing-Clubs, and Boomerangs." American Anthropologist vol. 38 (1937).

McCarthy, Frederick D. Australian Aboriginal Decorative Art. no. 7 ed. Sydney: Australian Museum, 1966.

Kjellgren, Eric. How to Read Oceanic Art. How to Read 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014, p. 67.

Related Objects

Mask (Buk, Krar, or Kara)

Date: mid to late 19th century Medium: Turtle shell, wood, cassowary feathers, fiber, resin, shell, paint Accession: 1978.412.1510 On view in:Gallery 354


Date: mid to late 19th century Medium: Wood, ocher Accession: 1979.206.1608 On view in:Gallery 354


Date: mid to late 19th century Medium: Wood, paint Accession: 1979.206.1802 On view in:Gallery 354

Mask (Le op)

Date: mid to late 19th century Medium: Turtle shell, hair, fiber, pigment Accession: 1978.412.729 On view in:Gallery 354

Mask (Mawa)

Date: mid-19th–early 20th century Medium: Wood, paint, shells, cloth, wool, fiber Accession: 1979.206.1412 On view in:Gallery 354