In order to be able to understand the art of Aboriginal people,
you must be able to understand their view of the world. Understanding
the Dreaming will enable you to understand what they see. The Western
idea of art is of minor importance to traditional Aboriginal people.
The Dreaming and the artistic works of traditional Aboriginal societies
have a major connection. The Dreaming stories are presented via
carvings, dance, paintings, songs and story-telling.
Not only does the traditional Aboriginal art represent the Dreaming
but it is also mostly an extremely important part of ceremonies.
Aboriginal art is similar to the European art in that the works
of art are created in order to represent the world and express peoples'
beliefs. (See Rock Art Gallery)
The idea of art in traditional Aboriginal communities differs greatly
to the understanding of art in European communities. Body decorating,
dancing, constructing baskets and tools, sand drawing and singing
were not classified as art. Such works were part of the Dreaming
and part of the usual, everyday life. Due to this idea, the idea
of 'an artist' did not exist because everyone was considered an
artist. However, this idea is being altered as the traditional Aboriginal
societies adjust to parts of the western lifestyle. The quantity
of 'artists' in an Aboriginal community would be immense compared
to the quantity of artists in non - Aboriginal societies.
As a tradition, Aboriginal people only used the materials that are
able to be used by them in order to represent the Dreaming and their
world. Therefore, the media of art differed according to the various
regions in Australia. There was and still is a broad variety of
traditional Aboriginal art media.
Traditional art which contain traditional ideas and meaning is still
being produced in the middle and northern areas of Australia. However,
some art techniques are contemporary because they are produced by
the use of acrylic paint with canvas and manufactured products on
The cultures of both the Western and the Aboriginal peoples have
caused changes in each other's art.
Aboriginal people's art not only includes ideas from outside of
their community but also different styles and techniques. European
art styles have been used but Aboriginal artists still represent
their own land and culture. In Australia, the culture of Aboriginal
peoples is being brought back into use with art as a major point
of interest. Book illustrations, installations, jewellery, lino
prints, paintings, photographs, pottery, sculptures, silk-screen,
stone paintings, and the use of feathers and shells are some of
the media of art that is included in contemporary Aboriginal art.
Some contemporary artists favour being known as an artist rather
than being an Aboriginal artist. European settlement caused many
alterations in Aboriginal art. In some regions of Australia it has
been very hard for Aboriginal people to keep their traditional culture.
With the introduction of the money economy, art has been used in
order for Aboriginal people to earn the money that they would need
to live. Aboriginal people have adjusted to some parts of Western
technology and also use it in addition to their own art. Numerous
traditional arts have changed but the method of production still
remain the same. Dreaming stories are still the basis of many of
the arts that are created.
Adnyamathanha rock art is associated with the ceremonies and rituals
of the Adnyamathanha people. Paintings are located in covered areas
such as caves. The materials used for painting are charcoal and
coloured ochres that are combined with water or animal fat to produce
paint. Many symbols used in Adnyamathanha rock art are still used
in contemporary paintings.
Traditional Adnyamathanha ceremonies ceased during the 1940's and
now Adnyamathanha rock art is disappearing because it has not been
touched up regularly through traditional ceremonies. An example
of this is Arkaroo Rock in the south-east corner of Wilpena Pound
which is 6000 years old.
The colours of Adnyamathanha rock art are different at each painting
location and there is also a small difference of design between
paintings and engravings.
Adnyamathanha people believe that their spiritual ancestors introduced
their rock art so the symbols used in their rock art are very important.
They have tangible meanings for Adnyamathanha people and particular
symbols may have more than one meaning. A number of the symbols
were made for a special purpose such as education about the Dreaming.
Symbols that are not connected to certain ceremonies may be part
of a stories or songs that are used in rituals. Some symbols represent
resources like water that are found in certain places.
It is important that these symbols are not copied without the permission
of Adnyamathanha people because they are a part of their cultural