The Indigenous culture dates back as far as between 60.000 and 80.000 years. Due to the Indigenous people not using a written language, they were bound to use art to convey their important cultural stories through generations. Indigenous art is centred around storytelling, in particular about “the Dreamtime”.
Traditional paintings by Indigenous people were drawn on rock walls and ceremonial articles. It includes a wide range of techniques and types, such as rock painting, dot painting, rock engravings, bark painting, carvings, sculptures and weaving and string art. Dated at 28,000 years, a charcoal drawing on a rock fragment found is one of the oldest known pieces of rock art on Earth, which makes Australian art the oldest unbroken tradition of art in the entire world.
Obviously, by using art to convey stories, the use of symbolism is inevitable. Though, this varied per tribe. For example, in the Northern Australian area it was more common to make art that resembled X-Ray art, or the Naturalistic style. It was mostly to depict local animals and stories. The way they would showcase the bones and organs made for a 3D effect. However, in Central Australia, the more common type of art was dotting. Today, these are one of the most recognisable types of Australian Indigenous art. Using symbols was a different way to write down stories, teach how to survive and how to use the land.
A large proportion of modern Aboriginal art is based on ancient stories and symbols centred on “the Dreamtime”, this is supposedly the period in which Indigenous people believe the world was created. These stories could be up to 50.000 years old. However, they could also be older.
The dotted art pieces are very distinctive and known to be associated with Indigenous art. The dot paintings are actually used to hide secret information, this started when the Indigenous people were concerned that the white men would be able to understand their sacred and private knowledge. The dots were often used as a diversion from the important symbols used to convey the message.
The Indigenous art movement started around 40 years ago, when people started to move the traditional way of expressing their art, painting on rock walls, body paint or ceremonial articles, onto canvas.
Fun fact: you cannot just paint an Indigenous style painting if you felt like it. Artists actually need permission to paint a particular story. In addition, traditional Indigenous artists are not allowed to paint a story that does not belong to them through family lineage.
Australian Indigenous art is a unique art form with many interesting techniques and influences. This craft gives a glimpse into a culture that was independent of the outside world for thousands of years. That’s one hell of a hidden gem.
10 facts about Aboriginal art (n.d.) retrieved from: https://www.kateowengallery.com/page/10-Facts-About-Aboriginal-Art
The story of Aboriginal Art. (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://www.aboriginal-art-australia.com/aboriginal-art-library/the-story-of-aboriginal-art/
Indigenous Australian Art (n.d.). Retrieved from: https://courses.lumenlearning.com/culturalanthropology/chapter/indigenous-australian-art/