8 Facts You Didn’t Know About Aboriginal Art

The Aboriginal people are the first tribal people to have inhabited Australia. Their art style is entirely unique to the land, and encompasses thousands of years of creativity, shamanic ceremonies, and collective experiences.

Here are 10 interesting facts about Aboriginal art that any art lover should know.

#1: Dreamtime

The majority of Aboriginal art is based on a collection of ancient symbols and stories based on ‘the Dreamtime’. Dreamtime refers to the period during which local people believed that the world as we know it was created. Dreamtime stories are as old as 50,000 years, if not older, and have been passed down through countless generations over this time.

#2: Artistic Traditions

The Aborigines of Australia did not have a written language of their own, and so all of their important stories and traditions are instead based on visual symbols and artworks that tell stories. These stories are usually recounted using dance and song, helping to preserve the unique culture and hand down timeless indigenous tales. Symbols were the most commonly used iconography here, as you will be familiar with if you play the best Aussie pokies online!

#3: Education

Aboriginal paintings are often used to teach young tribe members as well. A painting – effectively a story – can be used for a number of different purposes, and the interpretations of its symbols will also vary according to its audiences. The stories that are told to children are often quite different from those that you will hear from tribal elders as an adult.

#4: Culture Mapping

Australia has always been home to many cultures, but before the Europeans arrived there were dozens of different language groups and cultural traditions on the continent. It’s no surprise that different areas today have very different artistic styles and preferred media!

#5: Sacred Permission

Aboriginal artists need to gain permission from their elders or family members to paint particular stories. This is particularly true when it comes to painting stories that contain sacred or secret details. Artists are also not allowed to paint stories that do not belong to them through their own family lineages.

#6: Switch to Modern Media

Australian indigenous artists only started to paint on board and canvasses around 40 years ago. Traditionally, the paintings we see on canvas today were actually drawn or scratched into rock walls, painted in the form of body paint, drawn in the dirt, and accompanied by stories and songs.

#7: Secrets of the Dots

In Aboriginal art, dots are used to hide secret details that locals did not want the white man to be able to see or know. Sacred, private knowledge was hidden through a process called ‘over-dotting’, which later became the local people’s classical art style. The Pintupi tribe seems to have been the first Aboriginal tribe to use this unusual style.

#8: Valuable Artworks

The most highly priced Aboriginal artwork ever created was painted by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. His work ‘Warlugulong’ sold in 2007 to the National Gallery of Australia for an impressive price of AU$2.4 million. The most valuable indigenous artwork painted by a woman was Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s work ‘Earth’s Creation’, which also sold back in 2007 for a jaw-dropping $1.056 million.

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