10 Facts About Aboriginal Art

1. Aboriginal art is based on dreamtime stories
A large proportion of contemporary Aboriginal art is based on important ancient stories and symbols centred on 'the Dreamtime' – the period in which Indigenous people believe the world was created. The Dreamtime stories are up to and possibly even exceeding 50,000 years old, and have been handed down through the generations for all those years.
2. Aboriginal symbols are used instead of written language
Australian Aboriginal people have no written language of their own, and so the important stories central to the people's culture are based on the traditional icons (symbols)  and information in the artwork, which go hand in hand with recounted stories, dance or song, helping to pass on vital information and preserve their culture. Although it may be tempting to compare aboriginal art to a Western art movement, its origins are usually coming from a completely different visual language.


Detail: Michaelle Possum Nungurrayi 'Womens Ceremony' 132 x 198cm

3. Aboriginal paintings are used to teach new generations
Paintings are also used for teaching: A painting (in effect a visual story) is often used by Aboriginal people for different purposes, and the interpretations of the iconography (symbols) in the artwork can vary according to the audience. So the story may take one form when told to children and a very different and higher level form when speaking to initiated elders.
4. There are many Aboriginal tribal groups
Australia has always been multicultural. Before the arrival of Europeans, there were many different language groups and many different cultural ways.  Check out AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia to learn more. With so many different languages, cultures and regions existing in Aboriginal Australia, it’s not surprising that different regions have different artistic styles and use different artistic media today!
5. Permission is required to paint an Aboriginal dreaming
Artists need permission to paint a particular story: Where ancient and important stories are concerned, and particularly those containing secret or sacred information, an artist must have permission to paint the story she or he paints. Traditional Aboriginal artists cannot paint a story that does not belong to them through family lineage.
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Related Topics:

What is Aboriginal Art
Aboriginal Art Symbols
History of the Aboriginal Art Movement