These dogs are made in Aurukun on the west side of Cape York, a project initiated some years ago that has created huge interest with collectors.
In almost all Aboriginal communities throughout Australia, dogs dominate the landscape. They roam the streets in packs and intimidate passers-by and lie in the shade, seeing respite from the midday heat; in the evening, they seek out an ‘owner’ to feed them leftovers from the day’s meal. Collectively they are known as ‘camp dogs’ and in the case of Aurukun, have the name ‘Ku’.
As opposed to law poles and other culturally important sculpture, which are associated with specific clan knowledge, camp dogs generally belong to everyone, enabling members of all groups to collaborate and share an artistic subject.
The Story Place of the Ku’ associated with the Apalech ceremonial group is located in the south of the Wik and Kugu region at Eeremangk near the mouth of the Knox River.This story links the land and the sea and is a tale of transformation where the Ku’ (Ancestral being or totem), who had travelled from the distant Northern Territory to Cape York Peninsula, leaves the land, enters Knox River and becomes Nyiingkuchen, the Freshwater Shark. This story also tells how Ku’ gave language to the region. Each dog has its name, its colours and its qualities of character. The Ku’ song cycles and dances are still performed at house opening ceremonies today.