The lustre of pearl drove the colonial development of Broome in the 1870s and remains a major industry to this day.
Prior to this for millennia the aborigines used and traded mother of pearl shell and used it for decoration and ceremony.
This Riji is the carving of pearl shell shell unique to the North East Kimberley.
These pieces of Riji are part of an exhibition called Lustre the history of pearling in Australia.
The Shinju Matsuri celebrates the role of the pearl in Broome.
The festival integrates culture of Japanese and Chinese pearl divers who came here over a century ago and made Broome home with indigenous and colonial history.
The lantern festival at Cable Beach captures a Japanese Tradition.
The street parade is led in a burst of colour and energy by the Chinese Dragon.
The Shinju festival also offers lots of exhibitions street music and art.
There is a beautiful projection down at the Town Beach
But it was the Riji that totally captivated me.
So I took a long ride, over 200km each way to the top of the Dampier Peninsula.
Over made roads and some thick sand roads
To meet Bruce Wiggan, a local elder and master pearl shell carver at his studio.
Aboriginal art tells a story. This piece tells the story of the making the laws of hunting between local tribes. These laws, this agreement bought harmony.
I’m now the keeper of this beautiful piece of Riji and it’s story.
11 thoughts on “Broome’s Festival of the Pearl – Shinju Matsuri”
Thank you so much for sharing this story. I wasn’t aware of the Riji before. Great to see the dragon and Festival..
It’s unique to this part of Australia. I’d never heard of it before either.
Wow, how did you manage to become the keeper of this beautiful Riji and what does that entail?
It is a funny way of saying I bought it. But it will outlast me. Then it will go on to the kids I hope. I had never heard of this before. It’s just beautiful.
Ah … well it is stunning so I can see why you did.
I recently read a book called Sand Talk. It was written recently and it’s all about aboriginal thinking and the land. It’s a lot about symbols as well. Makes the piece all the more interesting to me.
WOW! Beautiful <3
Lots of colour and light in Asian festivals. The Riji art is wonderful. Perhaps I missed it, how is the brown design done on the shell?
The designs are etched into the shell and then ochre painted into the etching. It’s really beautiful. Thanks for the interest.