Aboriginal People do not have their own written language, and so they make use of many common symbols (often called iconography) in their artwork. Although these vary from region to region, they are generally understood and form an important part of Australian Indigenous art. A few of the more common ones, and some variations are shown here. A painting may have several levels of story depending on whether the story is being told to children, initiates, or among elders or law people. The meaning of the symbols can change depending on the context of the story concerned.
Man with boomerangs & spears
Men around a campfire
Eagle prints by Clifford Possum
Emu, bush turkey & kittyhawk
Dingo & goanna
Flowing water or rain
Smoke, fire, blood or water
Women sitting around waterhole
Women sitting around waterhole with coolamons & digging sticks
Woman, women with body paint shown by the dots
Women around a campfire with digging sticks
Woman and children: the woman has digging stick & coolamon
Waterholes are critical to survival in the desert and for that reason they feature frequently in Aboriginal art, both as places (as in a map) and also represented as sacred places because of their importance.