Desert Dream - Indigenous Painting Exhibition and Sales
Home | Online Catalogue | Mount Allan Community | Art History
Mount Barker | The Desert Star

Symbols in Aboriginal Art

Dulcie Frank, 77 x 60 cm, 2003. ID:DF2

These paintings depict an aerial view of the country, representing the lay of the land as created by ancestral beings during their journeys of creation. These ancestors are often a combination of animal-like creatures with human characteristics and frailties, and it is their adventures which have served to shape the landscape, while at the same time establishing the laws under which the Aboriginal societies operate. A typical and common story for example, is one of the taboo of any relationship between a man and his mother-in-law (or any woman who comes from the ‘skin’ group from where a mother-in-law is drawn). Any such relationship is followed by dire consequences in these ancient stories, and therefore to this day, it is forbidden for a man and his mother-in-law to communicate in any way whatsoever.

Clem Daniels Jungala,120 x 60 cm, 2002. ID:CL02

A honey-ant ancestor’s journey may be tracked across the countryside by following the rocks, valleys, trees or holes in the ground created by such a journey, and this journey can be described in detail by complex and ancient songs, which may last for days. Songs and ceremonies of this kind are performed for all the creatures and plants of the remote regions where the culture is still strong. Hence caterpillar dreaming, kangaroo dreaming, emu dreaming, bush potato dreaming etc. It is just such story and ceremony which is depicted in the paintings, and indeed, the paintings themselves are an extension of ceremonial ground paintings, rock art, and body art used during ceremonies.

Maureen Nampajimpa, 56 x 104 cm, 2003. ID:MH2

It is the symbols carried into the modern day which are still used in these paintings, albeit with modern acylic paint and canvas. Artists in these remote regions paint only ‘their’ country, that being country for which they have ceremonial attachment because of the complex ‘skin’ designation, based on proper marriage relationships and the knowledge handed down from mothers, fathers and tribal elders during their life-long education and initiation ceremonies. The painting of the honey-ant story is therefore restricted to the father and son line (the Jabanardi/Jabanunga skin groups) their sisters and spouses, and those groups who have supporting ceremonial roles.
It should come as no surprise that the works depict an aerial view of country, because it is by reading the signs at their feet that the people were able to survive in an unforgiving land over thousands of years. It is this complex and enthralling interpretation of the land which is depicted in these artworks, and it is through the eyes of the individuals who produce the works that such stories can, in part, be passed on to the wider world.


Home | Online Catalogue | Mount Allan Community | Art History
Mount Barker | The Desert Star

  Site design by Rightside Response

Maintained by Bob Innes