Artistic Endeavors – Aboriginal Art

Because Australia’s Aboriginal people have no written language, they told about their culture through stories and symbols and icons. Traditionally paintings by Aboriginals were drawn on rock walls, ceremonial articles, as body paint and most significantly drawn in dirt or sand together with songs or stories.  Artwork we see today on canvas and board commenced merely 50 years ago, according to this article on Artlandish. Roughly the same story is told on this art gallery’s website.

In the 1930s Arboriginal artists such as Albert Namatjira painted watercolors of desert landscapes near Alice Springs.


Until the 1970s watercolor was the medium used in commercial Aboriginal art. Then, Geoffrey Bardon,  a school teacher, noted that storytellers would draw pictures in the sand while telling stories. He encouraged them to paint their pictures on canvas.

Since then Australian Aboriginal Art has been identified as the most exciting contemporary art form of the 20th Century. Aboriginal Artists need permission to paint particular stories.

They inherit the rights to these stories which are passed down through generations within certain skin groups. An Aboriginal artist cannot paint a story that does not belong to them through family.

Aboriginal art differs in character and style depending from which region the artist is from and what language is spoken.  Most contemporary art can be recognised from the community where it was created.

Dreamtime or Jukurrpa and Tingari (the term varies according to their particular local language) is the translation of the Creation of time for the Aboriginal People.  Most Aboriginal Artists paint facets of their Dreaming which forms a share of their inheritance and identity.


This is the ancient story of the Milky Way and the Seven Sisters (Pleiades). This Dreaming was inherited by Gabriella from her mother, handed down to her from her paternal grandmother, Long Rose, given to Gabriella by her father.
aerial view used by some artists
indigenous painters at work

In May 2007 the first piece of indigenous art sold for more than $1 million –  Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s work ‘Earth’s Creation’ to a private buyer for $1.056 million.

The market for such art has helped strengthen Aboriginal culture and provided much needed boosts to local economies. Aboriginal designs can be found in cotton fabrics sold online and in quilt shops.

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Artistic Endeavors – Aboriginal Art

  1. Gayle Coots

    I have fallen in love with the Aboriginal fabric popping up in quilt shops! This is fanstatic information! Thank you.

  2. I had never heard of this form of passing a story/art down through clans either. It makes sense, since all folklore and folk art seems to be based on communal transmission, but this sounds quite a little more rigid and proscribed (not sure that’s the right word). The works are SO varied and fascinating!

  3. The art of Aboriginal Australian people has always been a favorite of mine though I didn’t know much about it. This post and the links make me want to learn more. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Barbara

    Fascinating. They have a form of copyright!

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