Lorrkon (Hollow Log) - John B Fisher

John B Fisher

Lorrkon (Hollow Log), 2015

148 x 20 x 20 cmStringy Bark (Eucalyptus Teradonta) with Ochre Pigment
Artists create a wide range of wooden and fibre sculptures: spirit figures, birds and animals, lárrkkan (hollow log coffins), and contemporary renderings of fish traps and ceremonial poles. Carvings and fibre sculptures are usually painted with natural pigments, and woven sculptures are coloured with native plant dyes.

The antecedents of contemporary sculptures are the wooden objects that are an integral part of ceremonial and everyday life for the Aboriginal people of Arnhem Land. Three-dimensional objects and carvings are still used during ceremonies and rituals, and ceremonial spirit figures were made from twined fibre and paperbark.

Artists transform hollowed logs into sculptural art objects, often in the dry season when bark isn’t usually harvested. They choose a suitable trunk of a termite-hollowed yárlk, stringybark tree (Eucalpytus tetradonta) and paint it with an elaborate design. Kuninjku artists often use rarrk and create designs far more intricate than those painted on the mortuary lorrkkon that these sculptures emulate.

Lárrkkan is a term for a hollow-log coffin or ossuary that is part of a secondary reburial practice that was a feature of ceremonial life in Arnhem Land. The Lárrkkan ceremony might take place many years after the person had died and last for up to two weeks. On the final night of the ceremony, the bones of the deceased person were placed in a hollow log painted with totemic designs related to the deceased person’s clan.

There are two styles of Lárrkkan ceremonies, distinct in their use of different instruments. In the western style, the ceremonial singing is accompanied by karlikarli, sacred boomerangs used as rhythm instruments. The singing in the bungkurl style Lárrkkan ceremony of Eastern and Central Arnhem Land people is accompanied by the music of didjeridus and clapsticks. This style of ceremony was documented at Gupanga, east of Maningrida, in the award-winning film Waiting for Harry.

John Mawurndjul’s magnificent re-interpretation of a lorrkkon features as part of the interior architecture of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. Other celebrated artists of this medium are Ivan Namirrkki, who was a finalist in the Clemenger Awards, Kay Lindjuwanga, Samuel Namundjdja, Laurie Marbaduk, Fiona Jin-majinggal and Paul Nabulumo.

Thanks to Maningrida art and culture for the description above.