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Carol Cox

"Boab Dreaming" by Carol Cox


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  • 96cm by 57cm 
  • Acrylic paint on canvas

In this painting, Carol paints about the boab tree and its significance to Aboriginal culture. Carol pays respect to the Aboriginal people that have walked the land for over 40, 00 years. The yellow circles, represent the moon in different seasons. The oval shapes in the paintings represent coolamons. These are what the Aboriginal people use to carry the boab nuts, dried fruit and bush berries in. 

The boab tree is an iconic Kimberely tree, with stark leafless branches during the 'dry' and festooned with brilliant green during the 'wet'. The boab tree is unique to this part of Australia. Boab trees attract attention because of their striking and unusual shapes. They are very individual and have a spiritual presence about them. It is no surprise that the boab is regarded as a special tree. 

Regardless of how, or even when the boab reached the Kimberely region, it is held in high regard by the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley Region. They know the tree as larrkardi and regard it as having a strong spiritual presence. 

It features in rock art and also Dreamtime stories, where it was regarded as being too proud and arrogant and was punished by being re-planted upside-down with its roots in the air. Interestingly, the African Boab is also known as the "upside-down tree". This nickname stems from the Arabic legend which claims that a devil uprooted a tree and planted it upside down. 

The people from the Kimberley Region have utilized the boab in many ways, including: 

  • as a source of life-saving water in dry times. The central wood pulp is spongy and full of moisture;
  • The fibrous inner bark can be used for rope, baskets, and nets;
  • A red dye is made from the outer layer of tree roots;
  • The leaves and sapling tap roots are edible and very nutritious;
  • The seeds can be eaten raw or roasted;
  • Pulp from the seed-pod is high in Vitamin C and maybe mixed with water to make a citrus-tasting drink;
  • The empty seed-pods can be used for storage, and also carved for ceremonial purposes.

The boab is a valuable source of medicinal ingredients. The high Vitamin C and calcium content of young leaves and especially the seed-pod pith makes it a valued commodity. The bark is also used to treat fever, as it contains properties similar to quinine.