Similar to the carving and painting of emu eggs in southeast Australia, the visual cultural knowledge etched and painted onto boab nuts documents the practices, life events and stories of the people of the Kimberley region, Western Australia.

Boab nuts are highly significant to First Nations communities as they are utilised not only as a source of food and medicine but also as a way to pass on cultural knowledge. They also generate income through their sale to tourists, and relationships are developed by the gifting of boab nuts.

In early 2021, the Australian Museum accepted the donation of an extensive and nationally significant collection of 265 carved and painted boab nuts specific to the Kimberley. The donor purchased the boab nuts directly from prominent Aboriginal artists and Aboriginal Art Centres across the Kimberley including Derby, Broome, Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek, Kununurra and Wyndham.

In this collection more than 80 artists are represented, featuring senior Elders, knowledge holders, award- winning artists and emerging carvers and youth, including John Whera, Ashley Oobagooma, Petrina Bedford and Marion Cox.

Marion Cox is a highly respected, senior Gooniyandi artist and knowledge holder from Yiyili Community, located 110km west of Halls Creek. On her painted boab nut about the bush plum, Marion shares her cultural knowledge of Country, bush food and medicines.

This collection is a testament to First Nations small enterprise and the dynamism of Aboriginal culture. It also promotes and guides the practice of future generations of Aboriginal carvers from the Kimberley.

Bush plum by Marion Cox (Gooniyandi). Australian Museum Collection, acquired 2021
Bush plum by Marion Cox (Gooniyandi). Australian Museum Collection, acquired 2021. Image: Abram Powell
© Australian Museum