Discover Darug art at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden

Darug Art

By Blue Mountains Botanic Garden

See authentic local Aboriginal paintings, artefacts and sculptures when the work of Darug man Dr Shane Smithers is showcased at the revamped Botanists Way Discovery Centre at Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah, throughout June and July.

A member of the Burraberongal clan, Dr Smithers’ traditional lands extend along the Hawkesbury River and up into the Blue Mountains, including the Mount Tomah area. His search during many years of caves and rock platforms, old books and museums looking for the art of his people, has culminated in the This Is Darug Art exhibition.

“I learned more about the symbols and designs from the old people than from books and pictures,” he said.

The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden met Dr Smithers when the recently opened Botanists Way Discovery Centre was being developed. Staff were looking for Darug tools to add to the centre’s interpretation on the traditional owners of Mount Tomah but were unable to find any locally. Dr Smithers made a set of beautiful tools from locally sourced timber including:

– Decorated clap sticks made from blackwood cut from Kurrajong with a travelling design and concentric circles and rays representing the layering of traditional culture

– A coolamon made from the bark of a stringy bark tree and digging stick of mallee (from Mount Victoria)

– Returning boomerangs made of silky oak. The largest and crescent shaped boomerang has been rubbed with charcoal and decorated, with white ochre rubbed into the decorations.

– Matching boomerangs cut from a bend. Of scribbly gum, decorated with a travelling and sharing design which can also be used as clapping instruments

– A “swan neck” killer boomerang and decorative nose pegs made of mulga sourced from the ceremonial grounds near Bi Rock NSW. While made in the Darug style the timber came from off country reflecting the trade in various materials prior to settlement.

– A battle axe made from iron bark wood and decorated with a warrior’s shield design (diamond) and a travelling design

– A stone axe with a split river stone from Yarramundi. The handle is mallee, the binding kangaroo sinew taken from the leg and bound with grass tree resin mixed with dried kangaroo scat

– A wadi wadi (killing stick or small club) and a boondi (slightly larger club with knob on the end) made of mallee from Mount Victoria. Both have been used to dig with. The smaller of the two has a digging blade on the bottom which indicates multiple uses and also may indicate that this tool was used to hunt echidna by digging them from ant hills.

Dr Smithers was invited to exhibit his artistic talent at the garden during Naidoc Week.

“I paint and carve the stories that I learned on canvas and in wood,” he said. “My style includes intricate patterns, designs and symbols that tell old and new Aboriginal stories with a bold contemporary style.”

This is Darug Art presents a collection of paintings, artefacts and sculptures that bring to life the ancient stories, style and symbols of the Darug people. The traditional symbols, lines and shapes are presented in a captivating, contemporary way, true to the ancient and yet modern in their aesthetic.

This is Darug Art by Dr Shane Smithers will be displayed in the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden visitor centre, Bells Line of Rd, Mount Tomah, from June 6 to July 31. Free entry. Details: and Facebook.

Also on this winter:

July 25 – Winter Bird Walk

Join bird watching expert Carol Probets from 8am to 11am for an early walk in the garden and enjoy observing many species of birds. Includes morning tea.

August 22-30 – Daffodil Festival

Join expert horticulturalists on a Daffodil Discovery walk or on the All Things Daffodil bulb growing workshop. See website or Facebook page for booking details.



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