10 Things You Should Know About Aboriginal Art

Aboriginal art is the oldest form of artistic expression in the world. Art carvings found in the Northern Territory date back 60,000 years. Modern artists use soil and rocks to produce carvings and paintings.

  1. Only an Aboriginal artist can produce Aboriginal art. Aboriginal art is only considered Aboriginal if painted by someone of that origin. The artist is influenced by the tribe from which they come, shaping how the painting looks.
  2. Dots are used to hide meanings from white Australians. Dot painting originated from the time of white settlement, as a means for the Aboriginal people to encode their meaning.
  3. Small dots do not equal Aboriginal art. Where the artist comes from and what culture has informed their tribe determines what technique can be used. Only artists from certain tribes are allowed to adopt the dot technique.
  4. Each artist has their own story to tell. All Aboriginal artwork tells a story, often based on the artist’s individual journey, which may be about their parents, warriors, or daily life chores. In some cases, the art reflects the tribe or captures the heartache of the stolen generation.
  5. Artists need permission to paint a particular story. Aboriginal artists cannot paint a story that is not from their lineage. They must receive permission to paint a story concerning historical or sacred information. It is important that each artist sticks to the stories and artistic techniques from their tribe.
  6. Aboriginal people do not have a formal written language. The artwork is very central to Aboriginal culture because it is a visual story. Without words to communicate, pictures take its place. Some artwork displays English phrases such as ‘stolen land,’ ‘racism still exists,’ and ‘everything stolen.’
  7. Symbols are central to Aboriginal art. Aboriginal artwork is a form of visual storytelling. There are iconic symbols such as eagle feet, waterholes, and digging sticks. Depending on the audience, each piece of iconography differs in meaning, but the essence of the story is the same.
  8. Aboriginal art has a meaning for different audiences. Like art, Aboriginal language has many layers. The first level speaks to the public or children in basic form. The second level is directed to the general audience, mainly adults. The last level speaks on a spiritual or ceremonial level. Aboriginal artists must comprehend all three levels to portray the visual story in its most detailed form.
  9. Aboriginal art is broader than just paintings. Some Aboriginal art is created using other media, including weaponry, boomerangs, and plates.
  10. The U-shape symbol means “person.” One of the most common Aboriginal art symbols is the U-shape, which means person. Most early artwork was drawn in the sand. When a person sits in the sand and then stands up, they leave a U-shape imprint.

Source: 10 Things You Should Know About Aboriginal Art
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