Did you know that Aboriginal art is the oldest ongoing form of artistic expression in the world? The earliest forms of Indigenous Australian art were ground designs, body painting, rock carvings and paintings. In the Northern Territory’s Arnhem Land, there are engravings on cave walls dating back at least 60000 years that depict figures, animals, birds, mythological creatures and other, non-figurative designs.
Aboriginal people have adapted to a range of changes throughout history and the same adaptability can be seen in their art and culture. You can choose from a wide collection of Aboriginal artworks that tell great stories and can be a beautiful and unique addition to your home interior.
What Are the Characteristics of Aboriginal Artwork?
There are many different ways to create art, but they have one thing in common. They are all processes through which humans give their emotions and imagination a physical form. Indigenous art reflects the richness and diversity of Aboriginal culture and is incredibly captivating and expressive.
One of the most common themes that can be seen across Indigenous art is the connection to the four elements – water, air, fire and wind, together with references to the physical, intellectual and spiritual realms. Aboriginal artworks show an ongoing connection and relationship with land and sea and a special glimpse into the experiences and beliefs of past and current culture and traditions.
Creating art has a special place in the Aboriginal culture because it’s a visual story. Aboriginals don’t have a formal written language; therefore, art is very central to their culture. It includes pre-European find and contemporary art and is a form of expression of belonging and connection with traditions and spiritual beliefs.
The Birth of Contemporary Indigenous Art
Art plays a big role in history and cultural identity and understanding how others make art can build a bridge between people and make us all appreciate and accept our differences and similarities. In the 1970s, a teacher named Geoffrey Bardon spent some time in the remote Aboriginal settlement of Papunya, west of Alice Springs.
He was working with Aboriginal children, but he noticed that whilst Aboriginal men were telling stories, they would draw symbols in the sand, which made him curious and he wanted to learn more about it. He asked them to paint the symbols onto board and canvas and a group of tribal elders agreed to share a few stories in the form of paintings with the outsiders.
That’s how the amazing world of Aboriginal art started getting closer to the modern world and encouraged Indigenous people to further communicate their stories and culture to the outsiders. Since then, it’s been considered the most exciting contemporary art form of the 20th century.
Art is a universal language and when it comes to Indigenous Australians, it’s inspired by deep spiritual beliefs and reflects a deep connection to the land. Even though their art differs in style and character depending on which region the artist comes from, they still have many things in common and they all tell stories about their heritage and cultural connections.
Aboriginal people believe that the Earth and everything it holds was created by their ancestral spirits. The period when the spirits evolved from the earth and descended from the sky to walk on the land is referred to as Dreamtime or Dreaming. It was the time when rivers, rocks, mountains and deserts, flora and fauna and humans were created.
Dreamtime was the main inspiration for art. Dreaming stories were told through music and dances and symbolic drawings were used to teach people about the moral laws, philosophies and beliefs. The symbols found centuries ago in rock art and cave painting can be found in contemporary paintings as well. It is a great way to preserve history, culture and beliefs.
Interestingly, but Aboriginal artists need permission to paint particular stories. An Aboriginal artist can’t paint a story that he or she did not inherit as each story is passed down through generations within certain skin groups.
How to Choose Aboriginal Artwork
Bringing your home interior together with artwork is a simple and unique way to add some charm to your living space. If you are not sure how to choose pieces of Aboriginal artwork, here are a few ideas that may help you find what will suit your home the most.
Find Out What You Like
Spend some time finding out what it is you love and look at Indigenous art from different regions, painted in different styles and mediums. Indigenous artworks are highly valued pieces that hold knowledge and culture, reflect unique experiences and a connection to language and tradition.
Always Buy What You Like
It may sound very simple at first, but it’s the best way to buy any art. Choosing art doesn’t come naturally to everyone and if you are not sure how to choose an artwork for your home, it’s best to consider the art pieces you find interesting, something that reflects your personality and through subject and composition and evokes a reaction in you.
Buy Ethically and Authentically
If you are considering buying Indigenous artwork, whether it be at an art centre, from a gallery or online, make sure you buy authentically and ethically. It matters because, for many Aboriginal communities, art sales are the main source of income. If you have any doubts, make sure to ask questions and hold your purchase until you get the answers you are looking for.