Symbols of the Desert


Traditionally the symbols that we now see on many paintings were drawn in the sand as a map that marked a waterhole, animal tracks or where good bush tucker could be found. 

These symbols also pointed the way to important and sacred sites.  

In the past many of these images were only to be viewed by those who had passed their initiation....after they were drawn in the sand and their meanings learnt by the young initiates they were destroyed.  When they were first painted onto canvas and board creating a permanent medium it caused a lot of problems.  Whilst it was a permanent record for posterity, it also contravened a very important part of Aboriginal law, these sacred symbols were not to be generally viewed.

The Dreamtime stories painted by the Aboriginal artists of today still have all the spiritual significance that they always have.  The same strict lores still exist and only those initiated to these Dreamtime stories are allowed to reproduce them in paint on canvas.

Many who view these paintings have no idea of the importance of what they are looking at.  The contemporary Aboriginal art works of today have evolved quite dramatically...there are a lot of patterns and dots, bold splashes of colour, subtle transformation of symbols;  but the important or significant symbols are still there, they are still part of the Dreamtime story and must be included, but they have been either hidden within the patterns or painted over to hide them altogether.  Only those initiated understand what to look for within these works. 

As other Aboriginal artists started to paint on canvas the repetition of dots became common-place and a new trend started to emerge.  The original intention of masking the sacred elements lead the way to another approach and style of painting and the evolution of contemporary artworks that have made many of Australia's Aboriginal artists world famous.

These works by Kuddtji, an Aboriginal elder, whose paintings titled "My Country" show an amazing sense of colour, balance and knowledge of his country.

Tony commented on 16-Oct-2012 11:59 AM
I've been looking at these symbols on Aboriginal paintings for a long time and really didn't understand their meaning at all, or how significant they are, thankyou for your blog.
Andrea commented on 30-Oct-2012 04:10 PM
Just love all of the artworks at Red Desert - so beautiful
aboriginal art directory commented on 16-Nov-2012 05:14 PM
It is an qualitative post which gives lots of information about new trend of aboriginal art and artists, keep sharing such more posts.aboriginal art

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