Kanilpa (Desert Winnowing Bowl)
Kanilpa (Desert Winnowing Bowl)
Kanilpa (Desert Winnowing Bowl)
Kanilpa (Desert Winnowing Bowl)

Lalla West Profile & Artworks

Kanilpa (Desert Winnowing Bowl)

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Known collectively as punu, the carvings of Anangu (Central and Western Desert Aboriginal people) have their beginnings in the Tjukurpa when the Creation Ancestors fashioned the first weapons and tools, setting down the laws and conventions of their design. Women carved a number of different sized bowls for their food gathering, processing, and water collecting. 

This bowl is known as kanilpa, long and narrow in shape and ideal for winnowing precious grains like wangunu or wintalyka (woolly butt grass seed or Acacia seed). One method of obtaining it is from the side of a muur-muurpa, bloodwood tree (Eucalyptus terminalus) with a long narrow trunk. A section is removed and hollowed out with fire before carving tools are used to shape it as light and strong as possible. Others are carved from a root section of the itara or river red gum (Eucalytptus camaldulensis).

It takes a particular and highly refined skill to coordinate the hand movements required to separate and sift seeds which may be as tiny as grains of sand and the women use a rhythmic rocking motion to efficiently separate and clean their seeds. It is also used in making kiti or spinifex resin where a fine powder must be separated from sand.

As most contemporary Maruku artists use walka, patterns burnt into the wood with wire heated on a wood fire to relate Tjukurpa, stories about the Tjukuritja  or Creation Ancestors and the activities which shaped the land, the people and their Law, this bowl is an increasingly rare example of  women’s work.


Artist: Lalla West 
Title: Kanilpa (Desert Winnowing Bowl) 
Weight: 1kg
Size: Length: 470mm x Width: 180mm x Height: 97mm
Medium:  'itara' - River red gum, Eucalyptus camaldulensis

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