Aboriginal Art is one of the oldest art forms on the planet, and has played an important role within Aboriginal society for thousands of years. Australian Aboriginals don’t have a fully formed written language that can be understood across all tribes, so their artwork played an important role in communicating history, ideas and the dreamtime.
When an Aboriginal artist is depicting traditional or sacred stories through their artwork, they must first either have permission from elders within the community, or have had the story passed down through their family lineage. This tradition has lived on for thousands of years, and most Aboriginal art we know today has been passed down through generations, telling a unique story or teaching through the artwork itself.
Traditional Aboriginal Art:
Traditional Aboriginal Art was not painted on canvas or boards, this method actually only began within the past 50 years. Aboriginal tribes would typically use ochre or iron clay pigments to make colours like yellow, brown and red for their paints, and charcoal to make black. The paintings were made on rock walls, on skin and for tribal purposes. Symbols were also commonly drawn in the sand to convey ideas or pass down stories. Archaeologists have dated back some Aboriginal rock paintings 20,000 years, making them the oldest recorded art form in the world.
Modern Aboriginal art began in 1971, when a teacher named Geoffrey Bardon was working with Aboriginal groups around Alice Springs, and noticed they were drawing symbols in the sand. He encouraged them to instead use watercolour on canvas or board to make these drawings into paintings, and this is known as the starting point of modern Aboriginal Art. Styles and choices of colour are an indication of where the art is from, with some communities typically sticking to traditional earth colours, and others opting for more modern primary colours.
Dot painting is one of the most commonly known styles of Aboriginal art, due to it’s unique look and time consuming nature. Dot painting actually began after European settlement, as Aboriginal people were concerned that the white man would be able to understand their sacred teachings and knowledge. To get around this, they invented the unique style of dot painting, aiming to confuse any white people viewing the art, but still be understood by their fellow Aboriginal community.
Aboriginal Art in the Watarrka Region:
The Watarrka Foundation is proud to support Aboriginal Art and provide a new channel for the sale of this art through our connections with various schools and organisations within Sydney.
We’ve partnered with Alpitye Art Studio in Alice Springs to hold an annual art sale in Sydney with 30% of all purchases being donated to the Watarrka Foundation. Alpite Art Studio has also graciously donated 30% of their total art sales throughout the year, and raised $23,591 for the Watarrka Foundation in 2018.
To stay up to date with upcoming events including art sales, make sure to sign up to the Watarrka newsletter through our website.