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Aboriginal Art, History and The "dreamtime"

aborigine caves

Poem

He clutched the heart in his hands and ran in fear

But having trod there,his footprints are left

Where he trod and ran away

His marks still stand,clear and good

Where for fear of a whirlwind he fled.

And the story of the Emu is there,

The cutting and the eating.

And the wind still talks and will always talk,

The grass will light and the trees will light

And the big wind will blow.

I've finished now.

from

Pitjantjatjara,texts.....based on a translation by..Thomas Murray

more caves

Art ART

The art of Australia's Aborigines reflects their tradional way of life. The artist is restricted to the materials of his surroundings and the natural environment to provide both the medium and the means to protect his fixed permanent art.

So, the Australian Aborigine painted on sheltered cave walls, carved on living trees, engraved on flat exposed outcrops of rock.

stone arrangement

The Aborigines portable art was confined to such things tjuringa (small decorated stones)which held the spirit of their ancestors, they also decorated things they could carry around i.e

boomerangs, spears and dillybags.

aborigine art

Art was and is an essential part of the Aboriginal life, it permeates every aspect, both ceremonial and secular. It was sorcery and magic, and the expression of deeply held religious beliefs, the source of fertility and natural increase also the saga of achievements and the daily record of gossip.

cave drawings

Almost without exception the Aborigines tell a story of time beyond memory when the earth was flat and featureless and there were no food,no flowers and no people.

Then sometime , somehow, out of the earth or out of the sea, came the creative heroes. They walked upon the land and decreed what should exist, Gullies appeared where they dug the earth and streams appeared where they urinated.

They were very flexible with form, sometimes male,sometimes female, sometimes animal and sometimes not even human, and they created everything.

They gave birth to man and the other creatures, they converted each other into rocks, trees and other formations.


Another recurring theme in the Aboriginal art is the "stick"like magic makers, of which the MIMIS of Western Arnhem land, are an example.The Aborigines say that these strange graceful paintings, depicting people in action(running,leaping, fighting, dancing)are self potraits of fairy like creatures who live in the rock crevices and come out only at night.

aborigine fish drawing
Pictures of great schools of fish and men hunting Kangaroos, are probably wish-fulfilment art associated with hunting magic.

aborigine in mourning
Art also plays it's part in Aboriginal mortuary rites.In north eastern Arnhem land the skulls of the dead are decorated with personal and clan totemic symbols and may be carried around for years as a mark of respect; a widow may wear her husbands skull as a pendant.

In many northern areas the bodies of mourners and the dead are decorated with elaborate and often fantastic designs.

 more pics
Cave paintings are the most common form of Aboriginal fixed art, this medium gave the artist more scope than did the the techniques od rock engraving.

The pigments used were easy to get (locally)they came from the earth, ochres of red and yellow, white pipeclay and black manganese oxcide.If they coudn't be found near by they were bartered for.Though some Aborigines travelled hundreds of miles to collect ochre from a particular place because of special mythological associations.

bark painting
It seems that the practice of painting on bark was widespread throughout Australia and Tasmania.There are only a few pieces of the bark art that survived the early settlers, because there was little attention paid to Aboriginal culture and by the time interest was aroused, bark painting was a lost culture.

It must be remembered that the major part of the art of the Aboriginal people was only intended to last for a short period of time.Most of their art was intended to be destroyed during a ceremony almost immediately after it's creation.Today the only people still painting on bark are the tribes of the tropical north.

ceremonial dress

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