Essential Facts About Aboriginal Art Explored

Essential Facts About Aboriginal Art Explored

In the vast expanse of human history, few cultures have managed to capture the ancient essence of their existence as intricately and evocatively as the First indigenous people of this vast sacred continent. It's not just art; it's a lyrical ancient dance and symbolism of common creatives, creation stories, ancient memories, sacred beliefs, and traditions that stretch back tens of thousands of years, handed down from generation to generation, connecting the world's oldest surviving first peoples with country.

Each painting, symbol, and color is a storyteller, evolving over thousands of years on the rock art walls of ceremony places, whispering and portraying a sacred narrative of creation, survival, and connection. For someone new to this realm, our diverse Aboriginal art forms and creations might seem enigmatic at first glance.

But delve deeper, and you'll uncover an ancient indigenous universe that offers profound insights into an ancient ancestral humanity's relationship with Mother Earth, nature, flora and fauna, a complex spiritual indigenous kinship society across these vast lands, and spiritual stories of connection and creation spoken in hundreds of languages, and dialects from our ancestors, and elders of past and present. Join me as we embark on a journey to demystify, educate, respect, acknowledge, and appreciate the mesmerizing ancient world of Indigenous storytelling through multiple diverse traditional and contemporary artistic mediums.


1. The Ancient Dreaming Foundation of Aboriginal Art

Imagine a canvas that carries the stories of the dawn of time. The Dreamtime from an Indigenous perspective and interpretation signifies the time when the world our country and the connection were shaped and formed, these narratives of our people span over a staggering 100,000 years or even more and have been passed down through generations and generations to the present modern day. Our art isn't just about pretty pictures or colors; it's the heartbeat of an ancient culture that has been embedded over millennia across this ancient country.


2. Symbols: The Aboriginal Alphabet

For thousands of years, there wasn't a written language like the Western world among our Indigenous people communities throughout Australia and globally, symbolism, totems, rock art, and our ancient sign languages played a crucial role over tens of thousands of years in Indigenous communities. Think of them as an intricate web of cultural ancient storytelling that is supported by ceremonial songs, dance, and verbal narratives.

So, each indigenous creation traditional and modern has a purpose, a connection to our ancestral places, our country has a meaning and creation that defines our ancient dreaming narratives expressed through each curve, pattern, craving, drawing, line, dot, and symbolic message holds a connection to our evolution, journey, and existence.


aboriginal art


3. Art: A Timeless Classroom

Our creations of diverse dreaming stories and interpretations are intricate layers fusion within our Indigenous art expression and paintings aren’t just for aesthetics or pretty modern colors or trends. They are stories, and connections to this country, not like modern-day illustrated textbooks our ancient ancestral creations span over time and millennia.

Depending on who's viewing – a child creates stories or an initiated elder, men, and women have sacred stories and meanings associated with their cultural status within the tribal communities– so the stories shift in their nuances. It's storytelling taken to an immersive spiritual personal level.


4. Australia's Indigenous Multiculturalism

Before the sails of the Europeans appeared on the horizon, our ancient country was already a melting pot of diverse cultures. Numerous indigenous tribal groups, each with their own dialect and traditions, dotted across the lands, mountains, deserts, freshwater, and saltwater people. This beautiful mosaic of cultures, over time, has influenced the varied artistic styles we see today.  Curious? Check out the AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia offers a closer look.


5. The Sacred Permissions in Art

Not all indigenous people across Australia can paint with an understanding of every creation story. In many cases today the disconnection of many from their country and culture, and the modernized non-indigenous society have created many simply making-up stories, based on their own interpretation.

It's a matter of respecting and acknowledging cultural kinship lineage and permission that connects family to their parents, grandparents, and great parents dreaming creation stories, handed down over many generations.

Just as an author holds the copyright to their book, traditional Indigenous artists have the sacred dreaming stories connecting them to country, the custodians of many places spread out across country, freshwater, and saltwater dreaming. The traditional old ways even today usually most traditional communities by certain family lineage, and members, have the permission to paint specific sacred stories.


6. The Dawn of the Contemporary Aboriginal Art Movement

Now, Aboriginal art wasn’t always on canvas or other modern mediums. Ancient rock walls, ceremonial body art, and ancient ceremonial sand drawings were their original sacred traditional mediums. But in 1971, Geoffrey Bardon, while working in Papunya, gave birth to modern Aboriginal dot art, by encouraging the translation of their ancient ceremonial dreaming family stories placed onto board and canvas.

This modern non-indigenous shift not only preserved these stories but made Aboriginal art a global phenomenon, which today is the highest purchased and collected indigenous art form in the world.


indigenous arts


7. The Mystique Behind Dot Paintings

Dots aren't just decorative art forms or techniques. Initially, the Aboriginal artists and communities grew wary and cautious of non-indigenous people, and outsiders interpreting their sacred symbols, they devised a unique brilliant method to keep their secrets safe – by overlaying their symbols with dot techniques, effectively camouflaging them.

This technique, especially prevalent among the Pintupi tribe, later evolved into a signature style, which is sadly copied, mimicked, and plagiarized around the world and also by many practicing indigenous and non-indigenous artists driven by popularity and commercial gain.


8. The Dual Essence of Aboriginal Art

A singular piece of Aboriginal art can adorn both an art gallery, a private collector, and a museum. This is because it encapsulates both aesthetic beauty and anthropological cultural ancient significance. It's more than art; it's a multi-cultural fragment of living indigenous history.


indigenous pattern


9. The Price Tag of Aboriginal Masterpieces

The allure and cultural value of Aboriginal art isn't lost on the global market. For instance, the artwork 'Warlugulong' by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri who I spent time with personally in Alice Springs had the National Gallery of Australia reaching deep into their pockets, securing it for $2.4 million in 2007, and the magnetic spiritual 'Earth's Creation' by Emily Kame Kngwarreye in 2017 fetched a staggering $2.1 million, setting a record for an indigenous female artist.--

As incredible as it may be to collectors and investors from a non-indigenous economic trend to understand it is worth the investment, from an Indigenous understanding sadly our elders who pioneered the way for global recognition in the First Nations art industry, aren't around to sustain their families and share an ancient dreaming to the world.

In my view as an Aboriginal man/artist, our dreaming narratives handed down over thousands of years, that art design is far beyond a non-indigenous monetary value, it is an ancient ethos beyond the understanding of so-called "Aboriginal art experts" of this modern world money driven ideology.



aboriginal art


10. Art: The Reviver of Aboriginal Culture

The diverse Aboriginal Art movement and industry have done wonders in rejuvenating indigenous pride and culture locally and on a global platform. By bridging the old with the new, it has enabled younger generations to reconnect with their roots.

And for the rest of the world? It has unveiled the beauty and depth of Aboriginal traditions. But, it has also created an environment where cultural appropriation, abuse, plagiarism, theft, control, and greed thrive. With an ancient oldest surviving culture, it is imperative we must preserve, and protect our ancient connection to country via the arts for future generations.


11. Aboriginal Art and its Ties to Nature

A noteworthy aspect of Aboriginal art is its intrinsic tie to these ancient lands, country, mountains, rivers, waterways, and all landscapes. Indigenous Art was (and is) a way to represent and celebrate the bond between an ancient ancestral people and our environment.

From waterholes to specific flora and fauna, (native species of plants and unique animals), the motifs, common creatives, and symbols, showcase a profound respect and deep emotional, spiritual, and physical connection for nature, our (Mother Earth) and an understanding of the diverse ecosystem.

Indigenous Peoples conserve 80 % percent of Mother earth remaining biodiversity and recent studies reveal that forestlands under collective IP and local Indigenous custodial community stewardship holds at least one-quarter of all tropical and subtropical forest above-ground carbon. Indigenous people hold, and retain ancient vital ancestral knowledge and expertise in the protection of our precious planet.


12. The Role of Women in Aboriginal Art

The Indigenous arts aren't solely a Men's ceremonial sacred space. Women importantly and equally have also an ancient matriarchy and have played over thousands of years, and continue to play, a pivotal role for thousands of years to the present modern day.

Our beautiful women have their sacred and personal stories, symbols, and rituals, often centered around fertility, childbirth, and female ancestors. In many traditional communities, those women's dreaming stories are handed down from parents, and grandparents, while men's ceremonial creative practices depict men's ceremonies, creation stories, hunting gatherings, and ancestral creation stories, and our beautiful Indigenous women showcase the nurturing side, emphasizing harmony, care, and the indigenous dreaming cycles of life.


aboriginal indigenous patterns


The Bottom Line

To someone unfamiliar with Aboriginal art, it might seem like just dots and patterns. But behind each dot, each line, there's a rich tapestry of stories, traditions, and a deep connection to the land.

Through their art, the Aboriginal people have ensured that their stories, ancient yet timeless, are etched into eternity. And as we understand and appreciate it more, we bridge the chasm between cultures, celebrating diversity in its truest sense.

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