Elizabeth Djuttara / Ganalbingu people / Australia 1942–2010 / String chest harnesses 2003 / Goose feathers, kapok and banyan string / 38cm (length) / Purchased 2004. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation Grant / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Elizabeth Djutarra/Copyright Agency, 2020

Elizabeth Djuttara
String chest harnesses 2003

On Display: QAG, Gallery 17

String chest harnesses 2003, a group of three exquisite pieces by Elizabeth Djuttara, is reminiscent of ceremonial body adornments worn by women and young men in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.

The soft under feathers of a goose have been incorporated into plied string — spun from the inner bark of the kurrajong tree — which has been dyed a warm yellow using crushed bark fibres.

Similar ornate examples of these harnesses are worn by young men during initiation rites, and often include brilliantly coloured lorikeet feathers.

Elizabeth Djuttara lived at Mulgurrum Outstation in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, until her death in 2010.

In 1992, the artist achieved national recognition when she was awarded the VicHealth National Craft Award for a large, beautifully executed pandanus mat which was subsequently acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

She is represented in the Queensland Art Gallery Collection by several works, including Collection mat 2003, an ambitious rectangular form equal in scale and complexity to her award-winning piece.

Discussion Questions

1. How would you describe these artworks to a friend who could not see them?

2. What qualities of the objects relate to the trees and the birds of Arnhem Land?

Classroom Activities

Research the materials and making processes involved in these objects through five annotated sketches in your art journal.