Short Street Gallery, WA
Private Collection, NSW
Aubrey Tigan was a respected elder and lawman of the Bardi and Djawi people who lived on the Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome. Tigan made Riji (carved pearl shell) since his initiation at age 21. He preferred to work in pearl shell but was skilled in making all types of artefacts.
The Riji shell is what the young men wear during the third-last stage of their initiation into tribal law. After the final stage the initiate is allowed to be with his promised wife. Prior to this, he can talk to her but no physical contact is allowed. The entire initiation process from boyhood to manhood takes about 8-10 years. The young man is given a pearl shell as part of the initiation process and the red paint stage (called ilyboorr) indicates that he is now a man and is free to marry.Share