Hidden Secrets About Aboriginal Art


When Aboriginal artists at Papunya in Australia’s Central Desert started recording ancient stories using modern art materials, they knew their cultural secrets could be viewed by people who lived thousands of miles away from their homelands. Much of this cultural history was closely held by the elders, slowly released to their own people as they progressed through the traditional law and knowledge system.

Symbols or icons were used to represent elements of the stories and were widely recognised by Aboriginal people. The use of dots to decorate designs was extended to conceal parts of stories represented by the icons that should not be revealed to outsiders.

As stories of the dreams or Creations of the Aborigines, were central to many of the early paintings, there were hidden secrets that should not be shared. The stories were passed down along family lines by the custodians and placed great responsibilities on the custodian group. While it passed down generations, the message of not sharing these stories with the world was also passed down.

Nearly half a century later the stories told by that first group of Aboriginal artists have travelled around the world. These stories have brought about a revolution in the various art forms of the world where artists feel that Aboriginal art is a mysterious yet enticing art form. It has become an inspiration for artists in several corners of the world. We marvel at the unique qualities of the art and the echoes and connections to stories of the land. But there remain parts of these stories that we cannot access, acknowledging that traditional culture that brings us a distinctive art form also has aspects of culture it needs to preserve and hold a secret.

The artists have opened doors that lead us some way into an understanding of indigenous culture, and this has added greatly to the world knowledge about the people of Australia. The Creation stories go back tens of thousands of years, having been recorded in ancient rock engravings and paintings, and continue to be part of a living culture today. The hidden secrets of this great art movement provide the source of ideas and structures for the contemporary artists who are continuing in a very ancient tradition. Owning a copy of Aboriginal art would be an honour for every art lover. It has a status of its own very few art galleries around the world display them.

Source by Cathy Smith

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