Summary

Esther Kirby uses materials from her land - wood emu leather and eggs to create wroks that reflect her lifelong journey of learning, a respected elder of her community, she is committed to ensuring Koori culture survives and strengthens. She continues the art of emu egg carving that she learnt from members of her family including her father and uncles. Esther uses a scalpel to carefully carve through the different layers of the emu egg shell revealing multiple different shaded sections as she works to complete the design. Like the other master carvers in her family she learnt her craft from, Esther does not draw the designs on paper first. When discussing her work for inclusion in the First Peoples exhibition, Esther said "If I can see the picture in there, I just go with it. Once I'm focused, I can sit there for most of the day carving'. The dugong is a beautiful representation of this animal and the carving focuses on a simple yet elegant form that surrounds the egg, depicting the dugong swimming through the engraved water.

Physical Description

Emu egg, incised, depicting one scene of a swimming dugong, with the sea floor beneath it. The artist has etched her name at the bottom of the egg.

Significance

Esther Kirby is one of the most highly regarded emu egg carvers in Australia, she is one of a handfull of artists who continue this tradition in south-eastern Australia and the Carnavon region of Western Australia. The craft of emu egg carving first became popular in the mid to late 19th century and Esther learnt the skill from watching her father the late Sam Kirby who was renowned for his masterful skill and ability 'to do anything with the eggs'. Sam was referred to as 'the Boss Carver" and after he passed away in 1977 Esther began carving to keep his name going. Her skill in carving through 11-15 layers of shell to create her intricate works has earned her Australian and International recognition as a master carver. A member of Yulendj - a group of Elders and community representatives who co-curated the First Peoples Exhibition at Melbourne Museum, Esther shared her knowledge, stories, culture, objects and images to guide the exhibition's development. In recognition of her status as a master carver, 2 carvings were commissioned from Esther to be displayed in the Animal Creations showcase in the Many Nations section of the First Peoples exhibition. Each egg will be displayed for a 5 year period and these works are a significant addition to both the exhibition and to Museum Victorias collection of Victorian Aboriginal material culture.

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