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Australian Aboriginal Art

Updated on November 23, 2014

Their Artwork is Stunning

When the British arrived in Australia the land was declared Terra Nullus (Empty land). The native people who came to see them out of curiosity were looked upon with disdain for they were, after all, only primitive beings. Just as in other parts of the world where the white ships arrived and Europeans came ashore the guns were pointed at them and many were killed.

Sadly the Europeans were misled by the bible which does not mention the various types of people that exist in the world. This caused a lot of them to think of the indigenous tribes as nothing more than animals. As such they had no rights and even more so when they turned out to be thieves and rather aggressive towards the new arrivals.

Hidden behind the ignorance of worlly things by these people was an astounding culture and skills that the rest of the world is now clamoring to purchase. The things that express their culture are featured in the remarkable artwork they produce as paintings, objects and even music.

This lens deals with only some of the art and artists involved. It also highlights the way even their culture is stolen by others for profit.

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Darling River
Darling River

The Landscape and Aboriginal Art

Australia is a land of great contrasts in many aspects. Climate, landscapes, terrain, animal species, color and above all beauty. It is rough, vast, huge in size, and was once covered all over with the people who were ignored by white settlers who raced out to grab their land and put up signs of ownership.

The aborigine is a rather quite bloke at heart and these people had never been predated upon before and they knew nothing about ownership of land and possessions. For them nature provided and whatever one saw and needed you simply took it, used it, and passed it on to the next guy. But white men had rules and regulations and if you just took what you need you were called a thief and would be jailed or, at worst, shot.

But how do you communicate such things to people who neither speak your language or understand white man's law? It has taken 200 years to educate them into this new system and it is only in the last 60 or so that they have earned the respect they deserve as a highly sophisticated culttural people whose laws also exist but are far different to those brought here from England and other places.

Aboriginal Art History

Do You Like Aboriginal Art?

Would you like some of their work on your wall?

Albert Namajira

The man who woke us up to the remarkable artistic skills of aborigines and he painted only in water colors.

Aboriginal dot art
Aboriginal dot art

Dot Art

The most famous art style of the abororigine is the dot art which dominates their work. Colours take on a different hue when used in this fashion and the works are highly praised and much sought after.

The traditional paintings were done on paper bark, a special bark that peels off the tree and can be used for many things, even boat building. The aborigines also used sticks with the end chewed into a brush like tool with which they applied the paint. The latter was usually a mix of clay, ochre, and other things often made into liquid by saliva. The outstanding colors and unique technique stood the test of time and, as shown in the opening image, are beautiful to the eye.

Mostly aborigines paint with dots, straight lines, curves, semi-circles and circles. They also used the fleur de lis design like a 3 toed bird print. These symbols were used to represent tracks, water holes and to express a 3D image that was more than just a painting. Because of the limitations in the basic colors and the persistent use of umber and ochres they were mostly done in these shades. Rarely did they use green, red or blue until they acquired water colors, such as those depicted in Albert Namajirs's work. They appear to have not used dyes to color their paints. Their sense of color and design is quite remarkable

They put in a lot of hidden meaning into their works as a rule but this one appears to be a turtle in a water hole. You can tell that by the colors and the surrounds esperessed in dot fashion. But this painting does not look a genuine aboriginal work. Now a lot of art is produced in China and Indonesia and sold in Australia to trourists.

The light green represents the shallows while the deep blue is the ocean. Red is the land and the yellow the sand in which the turtle lays its eggs. If I was to interpret this painting I would say it is telling a story of the turtle who travels from island to island across the ocean to find a place to lay its eggs in the sand.

The artists are known for drawing stories rather than simple landscapes as westerners are prone to do. Each carefully placed dot is part of the big picture.

Have you seen this type of painting before?

Do you think the interpretation given is what the painting represents?



The aborigine of Australia was also deeply spiritual. They knew the land as their mother, creator and god. They devised totems to express how they came to be and each individual member of a tribe had his totem.

To call the spirit into a meeting or tribal gathering they used things like the boomerang. It whistles through the air to express the power of the spirit and is akin to the turndum, churunga and Holy Spririt of the bible. You might know the passage

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. Acts 2:2

Well that's what a boomerang sounds like and it whistles through the air to bring the sound of a mighty rushing wind to the ritual or gathering. The same type of thing was known in virtually every society throughout the world.

What Happened to the Boomerang?

Do You Own a Boomerang?

Did your boomerang come back?

Mural Art

After White Arrival - Is it genuine?

This piece of artwork may intend to show a history of aborigine life in Australia prior to white man's arrival. The ship shows the changes are coming and the great white bird represents the Spriit of the Mother in flight.

The drawing shows the crew quarters in the ship, which may not have been known by the aborigines. It is a painting that may well have been done overseas because, again, it is not typical of the great artwork of these people.

The Digeridoo - Aboringal Music

Now They are Being Fleeced of their Culture

When something is valuable the parasites move in. This time its Chinese and Indonesians who are the main perpetrators of fake goods that are taking money away from the aborigines.

People in business here in Australia are very aware of the Chinese who come in tourist buses and openly film products that they send back to China for manufacture. This means that anyone who markets a piece of machinery, art, craft or anything wlse that can be copied is open to this type of fraud.

Unless people know what is genuine they may get a shock.

Still images from Dreamstime - click here

Please leave a rating - thank you

Cast your vote for Australian Aboriginal Art

As you leave please leave some thoughts behind for us to ponder.

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      A good introduction to this beautiful art work

    • StevenCousley profile image

      Steven Cousley 

      7 years ago from Young, NSW, Australia

      A subject that's close to my heart. Very nice job on this lens. Thank you. :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for introducing this Canadian to the Aboriginal Art of Australia!

    • Harshitha LM profile image

      Harshitha LM 

      7 years ago

      Aboriginal art looks very beautiful. I had not heard of it before. It is sad to know how the natives were ill-treated by the the British. This is an interesting lens...

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      7 years ago from UK

      This is a wonderful look at aboriginal art and culture. How sad that they are now being exploited by the trade in fake 'reproductions' of their work. I don't normally leave a blessing for someone who just left one for me as I'm against ratings swaps... but I haven't been by your lenses for a while and this is certainly a deserving lens, so I can't resist.

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 

      7 years ago

      This is really refreshing. Lovely treatment of the topic.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image


      8 years ago

      I love it thumbs up

    • Philippians468 profile image


      8 years ago

      the patterns captivate me! cheers

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Aboriginal art is so charming. It's a kind of natural art that makes our spirit-heart to be green. 5 art lovers stars for you .. dear, Norma :)

    • sorana lm profile image

      sorana lm 

      8 years ago

      You have created a great lens. Aboriginal art is fantastic.

    • delia-delia profile image


      8 years ago

      Hello from a Squidoo Greeter! great lens on Aboriginal art...I just don't understand the mentality of Chinese business people stealing art and ideas...they have done it to me.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      8 years ago from Iowa

      A really great lens. I love aboriginal as well as most native peoples work. It tells so much of the people and their culture. Great lens. :)

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      8 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Wonderful lens on Aboriginal Art.


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