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The Dreaming and its Influence on Australian Aboriginal Art

Sep 5, 2008
The Dreaming is the centre of Aboriginal religion and life. To the Aborigines it is much bigger than the world of our nightly dreams. Of all forms of Aboriginal art, including paintings, sculpture and the performing arts, the one thing that is associated with providing the most influence is the Dreaming.

When taking into consideration that the earliest forms of paintings were found on cave walls, these were little more than a handprint or footprint. Later the paintings became more focused and were drawings that represented humans, rituals, and the hunt.The Dreaming was the basis for the early paintings that told the story of how the earth was formed and life was born.

Aboriginals do not see themselves as people in the sense that we would think of ourselves as a person. They see themselves as a family that has emerged from the Dreamtime. Not only is that where they have come from but they are still connected to it. Their idea of family is contained in the mountains and nature that exists around them.

This is why the drawings of ancestors that are found on the walls of caves show the family as a symbolic form. They are also shown on ceremonial boards and rock walls. Their beliefs are that spiritual powers have given the world the reality it sees today and the powers are hidden from the world.

There is not a single part of life that the spiritual powers do not have an effect on. The beliefs of the Aboriginals were just as much a part of the painting as if they were a real person sitting beside them. The paintings are believed to be more than paintings. A painting on a rock for example no matter what is a symbol of the object depicted. The belief is you do not respect the painting it will come out of the rock or whatever it is on and overpower you.

Some of the most renowned art of the Aboriginal people were the sculptures they made. They included grave posts. These were believed to have been used in funeral processions when a person of importance died. The Tiwi posts were placed in a separate area and viewed as a community of the dead. These posts were put into the ground all around the grave sort of as a memorial marker as we do the gravestone today. Much of the sculpting centred on the death of their people. Because a high belief in spirits was and still remains, the Aboriginal people were very respectful of their dead.

The old stories and songs were handed down from generation to generation just as with any nationality or culture. The drawings were made to show the story as it unfolded. These ancestral people can be found on the walls of caves, on ceremonial items, and on stones and rocks.

One of the beliefs is that if the spirits of their ancestors felt threatened they could disappear into rocks, trees, or whatever part of nature was handy and become part of it, is a lot of the reason they used these objects upon which to draw. X-ray art was one form used by the Aboriginals for a lot of their paintings and drawings. The form of a human or an animal was drawn but the skeleton and organs were filled in the body. The history of the art they draw is very much a part of their magic and mystical, rituals and stories.
About the Author
Experience the haunting atmosphere of the Dreamtime, and the art produced by the Indigenous people of Australia from Rod Dagan at http://www.nativeart-world.com
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