Rare Kaurna shield acquired for SA gallery

The Art Gallery of South Australia has bought a rare 19th-century Aboriginal shield.
The Art Gallery of South Australia has bought a rare 19th-century Aboriginal shield.

The federal government will spend $100,000 to support the Art Gallery of South Australia acquire of a rare 19th-century Aboriginal shield.

The Murlapaka, attributed to the Kaurna people from the Adelaide Plains, is made from the inner bark of a eucalyptus tree and has fragments of red earth pigments over its surface.

Barkandji artist and Art Gallery of South Australia art curator Nici Cumpston said it was one of two types of shields made by the Kaurna people and was a powerful symbol of Kaurna identity.

"Through its significant acquisition, the Gallery continues its commitment to building and sharing an understanding of Kaurna culture while acknowledging that AGSA stands on Kaurna country," she said.

Senior Kaurna man Mickey Kumatpi O'Brien said the shield showed strength in its design, protection in its history, connection to country in its image and the spirit of its creator in its life.

"We know the land is the oldest living thing, the trees are connected to this land the knowledge and wisdom of the land is in the trees," Mr Kumatpi said.

"It returned to its home of the Kaurna Miyurna (Adelaide Plains People) and now it tells many stories, when we listen, observe and share its journey and place, thanks to the support of the Gallery."

Federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher said the government was pleased to support the acquisition, which is the first shield of its kind to join the gallery's collection.

The funding comes from the National Cultural Heritage Account which helps keep culturally significant items in Australia to be preserved and made available to the public.

Australian Associated Press