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 dates back at least 60,000 years. Modern artists use soil and rocks to produce carvings, ground designs and paintings.

1. Only an Aboriginal artist can produce Aboriginal art

Aboriginal art is only considered Aboriginal if painted by someone who is of that origin. The artist is influenced by the tribe from which he or she comes, shaping how the painting will look.

2. Dots 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 his/her tribe will determine 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. Most art is based on the artist’s individual journey, which may be about their parents, adoption, warriors or daily life chores such as fishing. 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 born from their tribe.

6. Aboriginal people do not have a written language

Aboriginals 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, and each tribe has symbols that relate to a meaning. There are iconic symbols, such as eagle feet, waterholes and digging sticks. Depending on the audience, each piece of iconography will differ in meaning, but the essence of the story will be the same.

8. Aboriginal Art has a meaning for different audiences

Like art, Aboriginal language has many layers, each speaking to a different audience. The first initial layer 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 not reduced to paintings

There are many pieces of Aboriginal art created using other media, including weaponry, boomerangs, and plates.

10. U-shape symbol means person

One of the most common Aboriginal art symbols is the U-shape, which means person. Most of the early artwork was drawn in the sand. When a person sits in the sand and then stands up, they leave a U-shape imprint. This is the theory most adopted from galleries and museums.

Source: 10 Things You Should Know About Aboriginal Art
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