Australian souvenir shops are largely disappointing when it comes to sourcing a wide range of authentic Aboriginal gifts. To make matters worse, many of the products are actually fakes.
So we’ve put together a list of Aboriginal gifts that we believe would make truly memorable presents or souvenirs. We’ve left out the most common gifts such as boomerangs that are already easy to find, in the hope that we can challenge stores to start sourcing a wider range of products.
Burnt Kangaroo & Possum Skin Designs
Kangaroo skins are a very common item sold in Australian souvenir and gift shops but have you ever seen Aboriginal designs burnt into Kangaroo and Possum skins? These skins are often created by Indigenous artists however sales are mostly made privately through word of mouth or on social media. We know of Kamilaroi Creations and Savvy Penny Link who sell these amazing creations. The image below and at the top of this article are possum skins by Jinibara Designs.
Carved Boab Nuts
Indigenous people around the world are renowned for carving. In Australia this is no different however the only carving you will find in Australian tourist and souvenir shops are culture-less dot painted wooden masks or shields that vaguely resemble something you might find in Papua New Guinea. You can’t take home ancient rock carvings however Aboriginal artists are making intricate carvings on a number of materials these days. One of the most fascinating works you can purchase are carved and painted Boab nuts. Aboriginal artists are carving these regularly and can be found in local galleries and gift shops in North Western W.A in places like Derby and Kununurra.
Carved Emu Eggs
The skill used to carve Boab nuts can also be transferred to carving Emu eggs which brings new challenges to the carver. Just like with Boab nuts, different shades can be created by varying the depth designs are carved however with Emu eggs, the carver needs to take care not to crack the fragile egg. Some people also insert lights to illuminate the egg which highlights the design even more. If you’re looking to buy emu eggs, check out the list at the end of this article.
Hand Woven Mats, Bags, Baskets and Animals
We really don’t understand why hand woven products are so hard to find. Similar styled items made in Papua and across the Pacific are quite popular. All around Australia, there are numerous talented artists who are creating amazing designs. Many of these items are designed to be used while others are just for display. The culture of weaving goes back thousands of years but sadly these works never seem to find their way into Australia’s tourist shops. Aboriginal artists are creating intricate grass mats and bags. One of the most famous groups (Tjanpi Desert Weavers) come from the central desert APY region have the ability to weave almost anything that you can imagine.
Wooden Coolamons, Nulla Nullas and Shields
Wooden items such as didgeridoos, boomerangs and clap sticks are already quite common in Australian tourist shops however determining the authenticity of the work can become very difficult as many of these items are imported from China and Indonesia. Wooden items such as Coolamons, Clap Sticks, Ceremonial Boomerangs are still a common sight in Aboriginal communities but it is rare to see these full range of items reach store shelves.
Custom Handbags and Shoes
If you’re black and on social media in Australia it would be impossible to say that you haven’t seen some of the deadly artworks that have made their way from the canvas and onto hand bags, dress shoes and other fashion accessories. These incredible works are outrageously popular and have captured the attention of high profile celebrities and fashion icons such as Jimmy Choo. But when it comes to Australian gift shops, these items are once again nowhere to be seen.
When you combine Aboriginal art and sport you witness something very powerful. The demand for these items are sky high. If you’re a mum or dad reading this, don’t be afraid to contact the artists (listed below) directly. They might not have a physical shop but they have a great reputation and will be able to create the right design you are looking for.
Steel Art / Corporate Aboriginal Gift Items
A small Aboriginal owned business based in North Queensland has been making some incredibly beautiful works of art for several years now. Wayne from Aboriginal Steel Art has been broken into the corporate world and supplies companies with acknowledgement of country plaques as well as gifts and trophies. There is so much demand for his work and we would love to see his steel creations become even more accessible in the future.
Can you imagine if all of the International airports in Australia had a shop that stocked all of these items? Do you think the stores would go broke? We don’t think so and we can’t believe that so much talent in Australia is being largely ignored. These artists deserve far more attention for the culture, knowledge and skill they posses. Indigenous unemployment is often seen as a problem that can’t be fixed easily but isn’t this industry a great place to start investing in?
If you’re interested to purchase some of the items mentioned in this story we have provided links to their social media pages below so you can contact them directly. If you’re an Indigenous artist making deadly work and want to be added to this article or future articles, simply contact us via our Facebook page. These are not paid endorsements, we are just helping to share all the deadly talent that we know exists to the world.
Aboriginal Steel Art / Corporate Gifts
Custom Hand Bags and Shoes
Tradara Briscoe – Specialising in handbags and canvas paintings.
Jarawee – Specialising in handbags and shoes.
Football Boots and Sportswear
Daren Dunn – Specialising in custom Indigenous designed football boots & sportswear.
Iluka Art & Design – Specialising in canvas art, sportswear and mural work.
Artistic One Indigenous Art – Specialising in Football boots and more.
Traditional Wood Craft
PUNU Carvings – Specialising in quality wooden Indigenous tools and weapons.
Dreamtime Kullilla Art – Aboriginal owned business with an easy to use online store.
Woven Mats and Bags
Tjanpi Desert Weavers – World famous artists who can create anything through weaving.
Injalak Arts Gunbalanya – Showcasing woven work and screen printing by remote N.T artists.
Carved Emu Eggs
Carved Boab Nuts
Kangaroo Skin / Possum Skin Designs
Lastly, make sure to join the Aboriginal Art For Sale Australia Facebook group if you want to keep up to date with these and many other Indigenous artists and their latest creations. Most importantly, make sure to share this article, lets change the current situation in Australia and elevate our talented artists to new heights.