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.
Woman, women with body paint Women around a campfire Woman and children: the woman
shown by the dots with digging sticks has digging stick & coolamon
Man with Boomerangs & Spears Men around a Campfire Human Footprint
Footprints indicating Birds
Eagle Prints by Clifford Possum Emu, Bush Turkey & Kittyhawk Budgerigar Footprints
Footprints indicating animals
Dingo Goanna Kangaroo Tracks Snake tracks
Rockholes are important sources of water for the Aboriginal people. They may not be visible from the surface
but are like storage tanks, & people dig down into the rockholes to find water even when everything seems dry.
Flowing water, rain smoke, fire, blood, or water river
women sitting around waterhole waterhole symbol women sitting around waterhole
with coolamons & digging sticks
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.
Read more about Aboriginal Art