Jack Wherra : Carved Boab Nuts

Jack Wherra is one of the few recognized artists of the Kimberley in Western Australia to have carved boab nuts.


The aim of this article is to assist readers in identifying if their carved Boab nut is by Jack Wherra. It compares examples of his work.


If you have a Jack Wherra boab Nut to sell please contact me. If you want to know what your Jack Wherra Boab nut is worth feel free to send me a Jpeg. I would love to see it.


The Kimberleys of Western Australia is better known for Wandjina Painting shields and  boomerangs. Boab nuts are seen by many people as just tourist pieces, some boabs though are art.



Jack Wherra Style

The most collectible Jack Wherra boab nuts have Episodic Panels. They present in the same manner as a comic book and tell a story.

His detailed three-dimensional images framed story friezes.

The nut often divides the nut both horizontally and vertically. He developed this style in to tell stories in a similar fashion to the phantom comics he was a great fan of.

Some of his boab nuts some have as many as 12 miniature framed images creating vivid action narratives.

Many of jacks works have his name near the rim.

Jack also carved boab nuts to exchange for tobacco and comics. These tend to have a single well-carved image and not all carry his name.

Jack Wherra also painted Wandjina on slate and canvas. His Wandjina, in my opinion, do not convey the same strength and power as those of Charlie Numbelmoore or Alec Mingelmanganu

He also carved and painted  Shields Boomerangs and Didgeridoo

Carved Boab Nuts


Carved Boab nuts may have gifts and exchange items before European settlement in the North Kimberley.


Basedow in 1916 described and photographed engraved boab nuts from the west Kimberley. The Museum of Victoria collection contains a carved nut apparently from the 1870s


Boab Nuts are collected in April and May when the shell is beginning to dry and harden. After that they begin to crack and useless for carving.


The nut is first rubbed in the sand to remove the outer layer. This removes the fur, revealing the brownish harder shell. Using a sharp object the softer brown furry skin of the nut removed.  The technique is like a linocut, revealing layers of the creamy hard shell beneath.


The majority of carved boab nuts are not worth very much. The degree of workmanship and image though vary widely.


Jack Wherra was born in about 1920 in the Kimberley bush. As a young man he moved to mission life at Kunmunya, on the Kimberley coast north of Derby.

Jack Wherra spent over 18 years in gaol over different periods, mostly in Broome. His Gaol time was for murders or tribal killings, allegedly committed in 1940 and 1945. He received a pardon in 1963 and lived in Mowanjum reserve outside Derby. At Mowanjum he made his living carving boab nuts.

Jack Wherra images

The following images are not the complete known work by this artist but give a good idea of his style and range.

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