‘Too many trees!’: Aboriginal woodcarvers in Australia

Jennifer Koenig, Anthony D. Griffiths

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    In remote regions of Australia (particularly north and central Australia), large tracts of structurally intact and sparsely populated land are owned by Aboriginal people under land rights or native title law. Currently 740,000 square kilometres or 53 per cent of the Northern Territory is under Aboriginal freehold title or under claim, and is home to about 40,000 indigenous people (72 per cent of the Northern Territory’s Aboriginal population; Taylor, 2003). In these regions, Aboriginal people have a long history of plant use and management. Before European settlement, hundreds of different plant species were used by Aboriginal people in the customary economy and many groups carved wooden sculptures from local timber for ceremonial or mortuary purposes (Berndt et al, 1982). However, over the last few decades a growing
    number of indigenous harvesters have utilized naturally occurring tree species to produce wooden carvings for the art market. Despite this growth, there has been little research that has assessed the social, ecological and economic determinants of the sustainability of sculpture production in a combined way. In this chapter we look at historical aspects of Aboriginal woodcarving in Australia, the development of the Aboriginal art industry and the production of wooden sculpture for the art market.1 Finally, we use a case study from the Maningrida region of central Arnhem Land to examine aspects of the woodcarving industry in relation to the available resource base.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCarving Out a Future
    Subtitle of host publicationForests, Livelihoods and the International Woodcarving Trade
    EditorsAnthony Cunningham, Brian Belcher, Bruce Campbell
    Place of PublicationEarthscan, London
    PublisherTaylor & Francis
    Number of pages12
    ISBN (Electronic)9781136570162
    ISBN (Print)9781849770705, 184407045X
    Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2013


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