Cunnigong and the mutton birds

Judith-Rose Thomas
The work depicts the Cunnigong known as Pigface. This plant grows very close to the beach and has some medicinal qualities. The bulb on top of the plant, when this goes red it can be eaten and the syrup from this bulb has a healing process used by many of our Palawa people today for an upset stomach. The leaves of the plant were used by our Ancestors and is still used today for burns and stings. When the leaf is broken the juice is what has the soothing and healing component.
Flying above the Cunnigong are the Mutton birds which the Tasmanian Aboriginal people harvest each year from the rookeries, and the oil, excreted from the bird's stomach, was used for various healing processes in the past by our Ancestors and is also used today in the same way. Non indigenous people use it but in a more contemporary form combined with other components.
The Ancestors used to rub the oil onto their joints and sometimes for warmth from the natural elements. And our children of around 60 years ago, maybe longer, were made to drink a teaspoon of this oil every morning - me included - to help protect us from any cold and illness. The oil in the old days, and still today, is a valued commodity.
(There is a man in his 60s here in Launceston who has been using mutton bird oil for over 50 years to drink and he says with out this oil he fears he will die sooner than later and when he runs out of oil he will eat the bird and then he gets his intake of the oil).
I have also included the Petroglyphs which depicts the Spiritual component which mentally we need as Indigenous people to help us connect with the land and link the past with the present to help us go forward.

© Judith-Rose Thomas
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Object detail

acrylic on canvas
75.0 x 75.0 cm
Accession Number
Credit line
Purchased 2018
Object Type
Named Collection
Medical History Museum Category


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