Gamilaroi Country

The Gamilaroi people in the central north-west designed their tree carvings around powerful symbols used for boys being ushered into manhood at elaborate ceremonies called Bora. Elders who were medicine men (Wirringan) and wizards (Koradji) instigated the Bora. During the ceremony boys — lead from one circle to the other and forbidden to look at the carved trees — were instructed on the significance of each symbolic design. Later, the boys were taken away from the Bora ground, away from mothers and other relatives, and provided with further instruction on manhood.

Gamilaroi country extends from the Upper Hunter Valley through to the Warrumbungle Mountains in the west and up through the present-day centres of Coonabarabran, Quirindi, Tamworth, Narrabri, Walgett, Moree and Mungindi in NSW, and to Nindigully in south-west Queensland. These photos from the Clifton Cappie Towle collection have been selected to illustrate the four basic styles of carvings: curvilinear lines, chevrons, figurative images and scrolls or circles.

The above photos from the Clifton Cappie Towle collection have been selected to illustrate the four basic styles of carvings: those based on curvilinear lines, chevrons, figurative images and scrolls or circles. Of the original 82 carved trees, many are lost, seven remain at Collymongle, the Museum of Victoria has 25, as does the South Australian Museum, and six are at the Anthropology Museum, University of Queensland.

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