Indigenous Australian art

Indigenous Australian art or Australian Aboriginal art is art made by the Indigenous peoples of Australia and in collaborations between Indigenous Australians and others. It includes works in a wide range of media including painting on leaves, wood carving, rock carving, sculpting, ceremonial clothing and sand painting. This article discusses works that pre-date European colonisation as well as contemporary Indigenous Australian art by Aboriginal Australians. These have been studied in recent years and have gained much international recognition.[1]

Aboriginal rock art on the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth Station
Aboriginal pictographs known as Wandjina in the Wunnumurra Gorge, Barnett River, Kimberley, Western Australia

Traditional Indigenous art

There are several types of aboriginal art, and methods of making art, including rock painting, dot painting, rock engravings, bark painting, carvings, sculptures, and weaving and string art. A variety of colours are used, except for red, which symbolizes blood and is only used in other types of painting.

Rock painting

Yankee Hat art-MJC
Aboriginal rock painting at Namadgi National Park featuring a kangaroo, dingoes, emus, humans and an echidna or turtle
Baiame Wiradjuri
This photo shows the painting of Baiame made by an unknown Wiradjuri artist in "Baiame's cave", near Singleton, NSW. Notice the length of his arms which extend to the two trees either side.

Indigenous art includes a range of styles of rock painting:

Australian Indigenous art is the oldest unbroken tradition of art in the world. The oldest firmly dated rock art painting in Australia is a charcoal drawing on a rock fragment found during the excavation of the Narwala Gabarnmang rock shelter in south-western Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. Dated at 28,000 years, it is one of the oldest known pieces of rock art on Earth with a confirmed date. Rock art, including painting and engraving or carving, can be found at sites throughout Australia. Rock paintings appear on caves in the Kimberley region of Western Australia known as Bradshaws. They are named after the European, Joseph Bradshaw, who first reported them in 1891. To Aboriginal people of the region they are known as Gwion Gwion[2] or Giro Giro.[3] Other painted rock art sites include Laura, Queensland,[4] Ubirr, in the Kakadu National Park,[5] Uluru,[6] and Carnarvon Gorge.[7]

Aboriginal rock art has been around for a long period of time, with the oldest examples, in Western Australia's Pilbara region and the Olary district of South Australia, estimated to be up to around 40,000 years old.[8] Examples have been found that are believed to depict extinct megafauna such as Genyornis[9] and Thylacoleo[10] as well as more recent historical events such as the arrival of European ships.[11]

Rock engravings

Rock engraving depends on the type of rock being used. Many different methods are used to create rock engravings. There are several different types of Rock art across Australia, the most famous of which is Murujuga in Western Australia, the Sydney rock engravings around Sydney in New South Wales, and the Panaramitee rock art in Central Australia. The Toowoomba engravings, depicting carved animals and humans, have their own peculiar style not found elsewhere in Australia.

The rock art at Murujuga is said to be the world's largest collection of petroglyphs[12] and includes images of extinct animals such as the thylacine. Activity prior to the last ice age until colonisation is recorded.

Papunya art

Papunya art consists of various paint colours like yellow (representing the sun), brown (the soil), red (desert sand) and white (the clouds and the sky). These are traditional Aboriginal colours. Papunya paintings can be painted on anything though traditionally they were painted on rocks, in caves, etc. The paintings were mostly images of animals or lakes, and the Dreamtime. Stories and legends were depicted on caves and rocks to represent the artists' religion and beliefs.

On modern artwork, dots are generally applied with bamboo satay sticks. The larger flat end of bamboo satay sticks are more commonly used for single application of dots to paintings, but the sharp pointier end is used to create fine dots. To create superimposed dotting, artists may take a bunch of satay sticks, dip the pointy ends into the paint and then transfer them onto the canvas in quick successions of dotting.[13]

Stone arrangements

Aboriginal stone arrangements are a form of rock art constructed by Indigenous Australians. Typically they consist of stones, each of which may be about 30 cm in size, laid out in a pattern extending over several metres or tens of metres. Each stone is well-embedded into the soil, and many have "trigger-stones" to support them. Particularly fine examples are in Victoria, where some examples have very large stones. For example, the stone arrangement at Wurdi Youang consists of about 100 stones arranged in an egg-shaped oval about 50m across. The appearance of the site is similar to that of the megalithic stone circles found throughout Britain (although the function and culture are presumably completely different). Although its association with Indignious Australians well-authenticated and beyond doubt, the purpose is unclear, although it may have a connection with initiation rites. It has also been suggested that the site may have been used for astronomical purposes.[14] Smaller stone arrangements are found throughout Australia, such as those near Yirrkala which depict accurate images of the praus used by Macassan Trepang fishermen and spear throwers.

Wood carvings (Punu)

Wood carving has always been an essential part of aboriginal culture, requiring wood, sharp stone to carve, wire and fire. The wire and fire were used to create patterns on the object by heating the wire with the fire and placing it on the wood carving.

Often, these wood carvings, shaped like animals, were traded to Europeans for goods. The reason aboriginal people made wood carvings was to represent the stories they tell to help tell the stories. They were also used in ceremonies where they joined together, sung, laughed and enjoyed themselves.

Aboriginals from the Tiwi Islands traditionally carved pukumani grave posts[15] and since the 1960's have been carving and painting iron wood figures.[16]


In most Pacific areas the men oversee the art and architecture; the women oversee the art in felted cloth they would make from tree bark and plants. The art in clothing is supervised by the head woman in charge of the production. These detailed cloths were worn for rituals; each represented wealth and rank in the group. The scared clothing is also used in trade goods and social and political relationships. Wearing the textile then removing it and given to another person meant to bond or reinforce friendship or alliances. Kampen-ORiley, M. (2006).

Baskets: Baskets or coiled baskets were created by twisted bark, palm-leaf, and feathers; some of the baskets were plain and some were created with feather pendants or feathers woven in the frame of the basket. The people of aboriginal art used mineral and plant dyes to color the palm-leaves and bark of the hibiscus. These string bags/baskets were used in ceremonies for religious and ritual needs; the baskets might have been also used for carry things back to the village. Thomas, M., & Neale, M. (2011).

Jewelry: Aboriginal people beautified their bodies; they created the shell pendants which were considered high value and often used for trading goods. These shells were attached to string, which was handmade from human hair and sometimes covered with a type of grease and red ochre. This jewelry would be hung around a man’s neck or waist; using during ceremonies and on dancing men. Morphy, H., Rosenfeld, A., Sutton, P., Keen, I., Berndt, C. H., Berndt, R. M., . . . Cavazzini, F. (2003). Aboriginal Australia.


Ochre Pits in central Australia where a variety of clay earth pigments were obtained


Certain symbols within the Aboriginal modern art movement retain the same meaning across regions although the meaning of the symbols may change within the context of a painting. When viewed in monochrome other symbols can look similar, such as the circles within circles, sometimes depicted on their own, sparsely, or in clustered groups. Depending upon the tribe of which the artist is a member, symbols such as campfire, tree, hill, digging hole, waterhole, or spring can vary in meaning. Use of the symbol can be clarified further by the use of colour, such as water being depicted in blue or black.

Many paintings by Aboriginal artists, such as those that represent a "dreamtime story", are shown from an aerial perspective. The narrative follows the lie of the land, as created by ancestral beings in their journey or during creation. The modern day rendition is a reinterpretation of songs, ceremonies, rock art and body art that was the norm for many thousands of years.

Whatever the meaning, interpretations of the symbols should be made in context of the entire painting, the region from which the artist originates, the story behind the painting, and the style of the painting, with additional clues being the colours used in some of the more modern works, such as blue circles signifying water.[17]

Religious and cultural aspects of Aboriginal art

Aboriginal art at Uluru
Aboriginal art showing Barramundi fish

Aboriginal people believed in natural sites. These sites were sacred to them, and it is also the location where seasonal rituals were performed. During these rituals the aboriginals created indigenous art such as; feather and fiber objects, they painted and created rock engravings, and also painted on bark of  the Eucalyptus tetrodonta trees. The belief is during ancient times mythic Aboriginal Ancestor Spirits were the creators of the land, and eventually became apart of it. Aboriginals refer to the spiritual world as “Jukurrpa.” This is later translated to “Dreamtime” (Kampen-O'Riley, 2006). These ancestral beings inhabit the earth that emerged from underneath or voyaging from far off places. The aboriginals associate this within their laws, art forms, and even religious ceremonies. This mythological belief allowed the aboriginals to believe they could move to a greater spiritual level, and become more genuinely who they are meant to be. This is referred to as jimeran, or “making oneself”, by the aboriginals (Den Boer, 2012). Traditional Indigenous Australian art almost always has a mythological undertone relating to the Dreamtime of Indigenous Australian artists.

Wenten Rubuntja, an Indigenous landscape artist, says it is hard to find any art that is devoid of spiritual meaning:

Doesn't matter what sort of painting we do in this country, it still belongs to the people, all the people. This is worship, work, culture. It's all Dreaming. There are two ways of painting. Both ways are important, because that's culture. – source The Weekend Australian Magazine, April 2002

Story-telling and totem representation feature prominently in all forms of Aboriginal artwork. Additionally, the female form, particularly the female womb in X-ray style, features prominently in some famous sites in Arnhem Land. X-ray styles date back all the way to 2000–1000 BCE. It is an indigenous technique were the artist creates conceptualized x-ray, see-through, images. The mimi, spirits who taught the art of painting to the aboriginals, and ancestors are “released” through these types of artwork.

Graffiti and other destructive influences

Many culturally significant sites of Aboriginal rock paintings have been gradually desecrated and destroyed by encroachment of early settlers and modern-day visitors. This includes the destruction of art by clearing and construction work, erosion caused by excessive touching of sites, and graffiti. Many sites now belonging to National Parks have to be strictly monitored by rangers, or closed off to the public permanently.

Contemporary Indigenous art

Modern Aboriginal artists

Picture of Albert Namatjira at the Albert Namatjira Gallery, Alice Springs Cultural Precinct, in 2007
Australia, arte aborigena, john mawurndjul, serprente arcobaleno cornuto, 1991
Rainbow serpent by John Mawurndjul, 1991

In 1934 Australian painter Rex Batterbee taught Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira western style watercolour landscape painting, along with other Aboriginal artists at the Hermannsburg mission in the Northern Territory. It became a popular style, known as the Hermannsburg School, and sold out when the paintings were exhibited in Melbourne, Adelaide and other Australian cities. Namatjira became the first Aboriginal Australian citizen, as a result of his fame and popularity with these watercolour paintings.

In 1966, one of David Malangi's designs was produced on the Australian one dollar note, originally without his knowledge. The subsequent payment to him by the Reserve Bank marked the first case of Aboriginal copyright in Australian copyright law.

In 1988 the Aboriginal Memorial was unveiled at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra made from 200 hollow log coffins, which are similar to the type used for mortuary ceremonies in Arnhem Land. It was made for the bicentenary of Australia's colonisation, and is in remembrance of Aboriginal people who had died protecting their land during conflict with settlers. It was created by 43 artists from Ramingining and communities nearby. The path running through the middle of it represents the Glyde River.[18]

In that same year, the new Parliament House in Canberra opened with a forecourt featuring a design by Michael Nelson Tjakamarra, laid as a mosaic.

The late Rover Thomas is another well known modern Australian Aboriginal artist. Born in Western Australia, he represented Australia in the Venice Biennale of 1990. He knew and encouraged other now well-known artists to paint, including Queenie McKenzie from the East Kimberley / Warmun region, as well as having a strong influence on the works of Paddy Bedford and Freddy Timms.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s the work of Emily Kngwarreye, from the Utopia community north east of Alice Springs, became very popular. Although she had been involved in craftwork for most of her life, it was only when she was in her 80s that she was recognised as a painter. Her works include Earth's Creation. Her styles, which changed every year, have been seen as a mixture of traditional Aboriginal and contemporary Australian. Her rise in popularity has prefigured that of many Indigenous artists from central, northern and western Australia, such as Kngwarreye's niece Kathleen Petyarre, Minnie Pwerle, Dorothy Napangardi, Lena Pwerle, Angelina Ngale (Pwerle) and dozens of others, all of whose works have become highly sought-after. The popularity of these often elderly artists, and the resulting pressure placed upon them and their health, has become such an issue that some art centres have stopped selling these artists' paintings online, instead placing prospective clients on a waiting list for work.[19]

Current artists in vogue include Jacinta Hayes, popular for her iconic representation of "Bush Medicine Leaves" and "Honey Ants", Rex Sultan (who studied with Albert Namatjira), Trephina Sultan and Reggie Sultan, Bessie Pitjara and Joyce Nakamara, amongst others.[20]

Despite concerns about supply and demand for paintings, the remoteness of many of the artists, and the poverty and health issues experienced in the communities, there are widespread estimates of an industry worth close to half a billion Australian dollars each year, and growing rapidly.[21]

Papunya Tula and "dot painting"

In 1971–1972, art teacher Geoffrey Bardon encouraged Aboriginal people in Papunya, north west of Alice Springs to put their Dreamings onto canvas. These stories had previously been drawn on the desert sand, and were now given a more permanent form.

The dots were used to cover secret-sacred ceremonies. Originally, the Tula artists succeeded in forming their own company with an Aboriginal Name, Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd,[22] however a time of disillusionment followed as artists were criticised by their peers for having revealed too much of their sacred heritage. Secret designs restricted to a ritual context were now in the market place, made visible to Australian Aboriginal painting. Much of the Aboriginal art on display in tourist shops traces back to this style developed at Papunya. The most famous of the artists to come from this movement was Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. Also from this movement is Johnny Warangkula, whose Water Dreaming at Kalipinya twice sold at a record price, the second time being $486,500 in 2000.

The Papunya Collection at the National Museum of Australia contains over 200 artifacts and paintings, including examples of 1970's dot paintings.[23]


Albert Namatjira refuelling for a trip to Alice Springs
Albert Namatjira refuelling for a trip to Alice Springs, around 1948

There have been cases of some exploitative dealers (known as carpetbaggers) that have sought to profit from the success of the Aboriginal art movements. Since Geoffrey Bardon's time and in the early years of the Papunya movement, there has been concerns about the exploitation of the largely illiterate and non-English speaking artists.

One of the main reasons the Yuendumu movement was established, and later flourished, was due to the feeling of exploitation amongst artists:

"Many of the artists who played crucial roles in the founding of the art centre were aware of the increasing interest in Aboriginal art during the 1970s and had watched with concern and curiosity the developments of the art movement at Papunya amongst people to whom they were closely related. There was also a growing private market for Aboriginal art in Alice Springs. Artists' experiences of the private market were marked by feelings of frustration and a sense of disempowerment when buyers refused to pay prices which reflected the value of the Jukurrpa or showed little interest in understanding the story. The establishment of Warlukurlangu was one way of ensuring the artists had some control over the purchase and distribution of their paintings."[24]

Other cases of exploitation include:

  • painting for a lemon (car): "Artists have come to me and pulled out photos of cars with mobile phone numbers on the back. They're asked to paint 10-15 canvasses in exchange for a car. When the 'Toyotas' materialise, they often arrive with a flat tyre, no spares, no jack, no fuel." (Coslovich 2003)
  • preying on a sick artist: "Even coming to town for medical treatment, such as dialysis, can make an artist easy prey for dealers wanting to make a quick profit who congregate in Alice Springs" (op.cit.)
  • pursuing a famous artist: "The late (great) Emily Kngwarreye...was relentlessly pursued by carpetbaggers towards the end of her career and produced a large but inconsistent body of work." According to Sotheby's "We take about one in every 20 paintings of hers, and with those we look for provenance we can be 100% sure of." (op.cit.)

In March 2006, the ABC reported art fraud had hit the Western Australian Aboriginal Art movements. Allegations were made of sweatshop-like conditions, fake works by English backpackers, overpricing and artists posing for photographs for artwork that was not theirs. A detective on the case said:

"People are clearly taking advantage...Especially the elderly people. I mean, these are people that, they're not educated; they haven't had a lot of contact with white people. They've got no real basic understanding, you know, of the law and even business law. Obviously they've got no real business sense. A dollar doesn't really have much of a meaning to them, and I think to treat anybody like that is just… it's just not on in this country."[25]

In August 2006, following concerns raised about unethical practices in the Indigenous art sector, the Australian Senate initiated an inquiry[26] into issues in the sector. It heard from the Northern Territory Art Minister, Marion Scrymgour, that backpackers were often the artists of Aboriginal art being sold in tourist shops around Australia:

"The material they call Aboriginal art is almost exclusively the work of fakers, forgers and fraudsters. Their work hides behind false descriptions and dubious designs. The overwhelming majority of the ones you see in shops throughout the country, not to mention Darling, are fakes, pure and simple. There is some anecdotal evidence here in Darwin at least, they have been painted by backpackers working on industrial scale wood production."[27]

The inquiry's final report[28] made recommendations for changed funding and governance of the sector, including a code of practice.

Aboriginal art movements and cooperatives

Australian Indigenous art movements and cooperatives have been central to the emergence of Indigenous Australian art. Whereas many western artists pursue formal training and work as individuals, most contemporary Indigenous art is created in community groups and art centres.[29]

Many of the centres operate online art galleries where local and international visitors can purchase works directly from the communities without the need of going through an intermediary. The cooperatives reflect the diversity of art across Indigenous Australia from the north west region where ochre is significantly used; to the tropical north where the use of cross-hatching prevails; to the Papunya style of art from the central desert cooperatives. Art is increasingly becoming a significant source of income and livelihood for some of these communities.


Yirrkala Bark Painting
US President George W. Bush examines a Yirrkala Bark Painting at the Australian National Maritime Museum, 2007.

The winners of the West Australian Indigenous Arts Awards were announced on 22 August 2013. From over 137 nominations from throughout Australia, Churchill Cann won the Best West Australian Piece (A$10,000) and North Queensland artist Brian Robinson won the Best Overall prize (A$50,000).[30]

Traditional cultural expressions

The phrase "traditional cultural expressions" is used by the World Intellectual Property Organization to refer to "any form of artistic and literary expression in which traditional culture and knowledge are embodied. They are transmitted from one generation to the next, and include handmade textiles, paintings, stories, legends, ceremonies, music, songs, rhythms and dance."[31]

Aboriginal art in international museums

The Museum for Australian Aboriginal art "La grange" (at Neuchâtel, Switzerland) is one of the few museums in Europe that dedicates itself entirely to this kind of art. During seasonal exhibitions, works of art by internationally renowned artists are being shown. Also, the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, has an "Oceania" collection,[32] which includes works by Australian Aboriginal artists Lena Nyadbi, Paddy Nyunkuny Bedford, Judy Watson, Gulumbu Yunupingu, John Mawurndjul, Tommy Watson, Ningura Napurrula and Michael Riley.[33]

Two museums that solely exhibit Australian Aboriginal art are the Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art (AMU), in Utrecht, The Netherlands and the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia.[34][35]

See also


  1. ^ Caruna, W.(2003)'Aboriginal Art' Thames and Hudson, London, iiii p.7
  2. ^ Doring, Jeff Gwion Gwion: Chemins Secrets Et Sacrés Des Ngarinyin, Aborigènes D'Australie (Gwion Gwion: Secret and Sacred Pathways of the Ngarinyin Aboriginal People of Australia) Könemann 2000 ISBN 9783829040600 p. 55
  3. ^ Worms, Ernest Contemporary and prehistoric rock paintings in Central and Northern North Kimberley Anthropos Switzerland 1955 p. 555
  4. ^ "Rock Art Sites & Tours". Quinkan & Regional Cultural Centre. 2009. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  5. ^ Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (2012). "Ubirr art site". Australian Government. Retrieved 29 August 2013.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (2013). "Rock art sites". Australian Government. Retrieved 29 August 2013.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ "Pre-history of Carnarvon Gorge". Australian Nature Guides. Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  8. ^ Rock Art Archived 1 August 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Aboriginal Art Online, retrieved April 2008.
  9. ^ Masters, Emma (31 May 2010). "Megafauna cave painting could be 40,000 years old". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  10. ^ Akerman, Kim; Willing, Tim (March 2009). "An ancient rock painting of a marsupial lion, Thylacoleo carnifex, from the Kimberley, Western Australia". Antiquity. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
  11. ^ Middleton, Amy; AAP (2 August 2013). "Aboriginal rock art may depict first sea arrivals". Australian Geographic. Archived from the original on 18 September 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  12. ^ Department of Environment and Conservation (6 February 2013). "Creation of Western Australia's 100th National Park - Murujuga National Park". Government of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2013.
  13. ^ "Fine Dot Paintings". Utopia Lane Art. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  14. ^ Morieson, J., 2003,”Solar-based Lithic Design in Victoria, Australia”, in World Archaeological Congress,Washington DC, 2003
  15. ^ Timothy Cook, dancing with the moon. Frangos, Seva. Crawley, Western Australia. ISBN 9781742584980. OCLC 889871251.CS1 maint: others (link)
  16. ^ "Tiwi Sculpture | Sell Tiwi Sculpture | Tiwi Carving | Tiwi artefact". Aboriginal Bark Paintings. 11 December 2017. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  17. ^ Team AusEmade (28 September 2008). "Aboriginal Symbols". Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  18. ^ Caruana, Wally (2003). Aboriginal Art (2nd ed.). London: Thames & Hudson. p. 226. ISBN 978-0-500-20366-8.
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ Nazvanov, DR Greg. The Australian Aboriginal Art Investment Handbook, 2010.ISBN 1445776073
  21. ^ Senate Standing Committee on the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (2007), Indigenous Art: Securing the Future - Australia's Indigenous visual arts and craft sector, Canberra: The Senate
  22. ^ "Papunya Tula Artists". Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  23. ^ Papunya Collection, National Museum of Australia. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  24. ^ "Warlukurlangu Artists". Archived from the original on 23 June 2005.
  25. ^ Call for ACCC to investigate Aboriginal Art industry, ABC PM, 15 March.
  26. ^ "Senate Committees (Page No Longer Valid)".
  27. ^ "Backpackers fake Aboriginal art, Senate told". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 February 2007.
  28. ^ "Senate Committees (Page No Longer Valid)".
  29. ^ Wright, Felicity and Morphy, Frances 1999-2000. The Art & Craft Centre Story. Canberra: ATSIC (3 vols).
  30. ^ Craig Quartermaine (23 August 2013). "Winner of the West Australian Indigenous Art prize announced". SBS World News Australia. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  31. ^ Zuckermann, Ghil'ad; et al. (2015), ENGAGING - A Guide to Interacting Respectfully and Reciprocally with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, and their Arts Practices and Intellectual Property (PDF), Australian Government: Indigenous Culture Support, p. 7, archived from the original (PDF) on 30 March 2016
  32. ^ "musée du quai Branly: Oceania". Archived from the original on 6 March 2014. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  33. ^ "Musée du Quai Branly Australian Aboriginal Art Museum at the Aboriginal Art Directory. View information about Musée du Quai Branly". 15 July 2010. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  34. ^ "Home". AAMU. AAMU. August 2013. Archived from the original on 9 September 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
  35. ^ "The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection". Campaign for the Arts at the University of Virginia. Rector & Visitors, U.Va. August 2013. Archived from the original on 28 August 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.

Further reading

  • Bardon, G. (1979) Aboriginal Art of the Western Desert, Adelaide: Rigby
  • Bardon, G. (1991) Papunya Tula: Art of the Western Desert, Ringwood VIC: McPhee Gribble (Penguin)
  • Bardon, G. (2005) Papunya, A Place Made After the Story: The Beginnings of the Western Desert Painting Movement, University of Melbourne: Miegunyah Press
  • Den Boer, E. (2012). Spirit Conception: Dreams in Aboriginal Australia [PDF]. American Psychological Association
  • Donaldson, Mike, Burrup Rock Art: Ancient Aboriginal Rock Art of Burrup Peninsula and Dampier Archipelago, Fremantle Arts Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9805890-1-6
  • Flood, J. (1997) Rock Art of the Dreamtime:Images of Ancient Australia, Sydney: Angus & Robertson
  • Johnson, V. (ed) (2007) Papunya painting: out of the desert, Canberra: National Museum of Australia
  • Kampen-ORiley, M. (2006). Art beyond the West. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Kleinert, S. & Neale, M. (eds.) (2000) The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture, Melbourne: Oxford University Press
  • McCulloch, S. (1999) Contemporary Aboriginal Art: A guide to the rebirth of an ancient culture, St Leonards (Sydney): Allen & Unwin
  • McIvor, Roy (2010). Cockatoo: My Life in Cape York. Stories and Art. Roy McIvor. Magabala Books. Broome, Western Australia. ISBN 978-1-921248-22-1
  • Morphy, H. (1991) Ancestral Connections, London: University of Chicago Press
  • Morphy, H. (1998) Aboriginal Art, London: Phaidon Press
  • Myers, F. R. (2002) Painting Culture: The making of an Aboriginal High Art, Durham: Duke University Press
  • Rothwell, N. (2007) Another Country, Melbourne: Black Inc.
  • Ryan, M.D. and Keane, M. and Cunningham, S. (2008) Indigenous Art: Local Dreamings, Global Consumption, in Anheier, Helmut and Raj Isar, Yudhishthir, Eds. Cultures and Globalization: The Cultural Economy, London: Sage Publications, pp. 284–291
  • Senate Standing Committee on the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (2007), Indigenous Art: Securing the Future - Australia's Indigenous visual arts and craft sector, Canberra: The Senate
  • Wright, F. (with Morphy, F. and Desart Inc.) (1999–2000) The Art and Craft Centre Story (3 vols), Woden: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission
  • Kampen-ORiley, M. (2006). Art beyond the West. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Thomas, M., & Neale, M. (2011). Exploring the legacy of the 1948 Arnhem Land expedition. Camberra: ANU E Press.
  • Morphy, H., Rosenfeld, A., Sutton, P., Keen, I., Berndt, C. H., Berndt, R. M., . . . Cavazzini, F. (2003). Aboriginal Australia. Retrieved 2018, from 73…54.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7000000140?rskey=R60CBo&result=6

External links

Carson River (Western Australia)

The Carson River is a river in the Kimberley of Western Australia.

The headwaters of the river rise at the base of the Foster Range near the southwestern edge of the Drysdale River National Park. The river flows in a northerly direction along the Carson Escarpment and discharges into the King Edward River near Aragoon, about 12 kilometres (7 mi) south of Kalumburu.

The river has four tributaries, including Morgan River, Swida Creek and Pronga-Marie Creek. The river was named in 1886 by the explorer Charles Burrowes while surveying the area for the Victoria Squatting Company. He named it after a director of the company, David Carson.

The river contains several permanent pools where examples of Indigenous Australian art known as Bradshaw paintings can be found along the cliff faces.The traditional owners of the areas around the river are the Wilawila, Miwa and Wunambal peoples.

Contemporary Indigenous Australian art

Contemporary Indigenous Australian art (also known as contemporary Aboriginal Australian art) is the modern art work produced by indigenous Australians. It is generally regarded as beginning in 1971 with a painting movement that started at Papunya, northwest of Alice Springs, Northern Territory, involving artists such as Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, and facilitated by white Australian teacher and art worker Geoffrey Bardon. The movement spawned widespread interest across rural and remote Aboriginal Australia in creating art, while contemporary indigenous art of a different nature also emerged in urban centres; together they have become central to Australian art. Indigenous art centres have fostered the emergence of the contemporary art movement, and as of 2010 were estimated to represent over 5000 artists, mostly in Australia's north and west.

Contemporary indigenous artists have won many of Australia's most prominent art prizes. The Wynne Prize has been won by indigenous artists on at least three occasions, the Blake Prize for Religious Art was in 2007 won by Shirley Purdie with Linda Syddick Napaltjarri a finalist on three separate occasions, while the Clemenger Contemporary Art Award was won by John Mawurndjul in 2003 and Judy Watson in 2006. There is a national art prize for indigenous artists, the National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Award, which in 2013 was won by Jenni Kemarre Martiniello from Canberra.

Indigenous artists, including Rover Thomas, have represented Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1990 and 1997. In 2007, a painting by Emily Kngwarreye, Earth's Creation, was the first indigenous Australian art work to sell for more than $1 million. Leading indigenous artists have had solo exhibitions at Australian and international galleries, while their work has been included in major collaborations such as the design of the Musée du quai Branly. Works by contemporary indigenous artists are held by all of Australia's major public galleries, including the National Gallery of Australia, which in 2010 opened a new wing dedicated to its indigenous collection.

Dreaming (Australian Aboriginal art)

In Australian Aboriginal art, a Dreaming is a totemistic design or artwork, which can be owned by a tribal group or individual.

This usage of Stanner's term was popularised by Geoffrey Bardon in the context of the Papunya Tula artist collective he established in the 1970s.

Drysdale River

Drysdale River is a river in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The river rises in the Caroline Ranges, flows in a northerly direction and discharges into Napier Broome Bay near Kalumburu. The river contains several permanent pools some of which have several examples of Indigenous Australian art known as Bradshaw paintings that can be found along the cliff faces.Notable waterfalls on the river are the Eagle Falls - which are regularly visited by Kimberley coastal cruise ships, Solea Falls north of the Johnston Creek fork and Bango Falls on the tributary Bango Creek.

There are 19 tributaries of the Drysdale including; Gibb River, Woodhouse River, Barton River, Tadarida Creek, Wax Creek, Curlew Creek, King David Creek, Ubach Creek and Damper Creek.

15% of the river's catchment area lies within Drysdale River National Park.The river was named after the Director of a Victorian Squatting Company T.A. Drysdale by explorer Charles Burrowes in 1886.

The traditional owners of the area that the river flows through are the Ngarinjin, Miwa and Wilawila peoples.

Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Emily Kame Kngwarreye (or Emily Kam Ngwarray) (1910 – 3 September 1996) was an indigenous Australian artist from the Utopia community in the Northern Territory. She is one of the most prominent and successful artists in the history of contemporary indigenous Australian art.

Grenfell Street, Adelaide

Grenfell Street (34.924°S 138.602°E / -34.924; 138.602) is a major street in the north-east quarter of the centre of the city of Adelaide, South Australia. The street runs west-east from King William Street to East Terrace. On the other side of King William Street, it continues as Currie Street. Its intersection with Pulteney Street is encircled by Hindmarsh Square.

Grenfell Street was named after Pascoe St Leger Grenfell, a British businessman and valued member of the South Australian Church Society. His significant donation of an acre of land on North Terrace was used for the construction of the Holy Trinity Church — one of the first churches built in the city. Raikes Currie was Treasurer of the South Australian Church Society, and his name his used for the western continuation of Grenfell Street across King William Street. Grenfell also donated another 40 acres of country land for the use of the church as glebe lands. This land later became the suburb of Trinity Gardens.

The section of the street which runs parallel to Rundle Mall features many retail outlets, as well as the southern entrances of many of the arcades, side-streets, and eateries of the mall. Office buildings and night spots also populate the street. The eastern end is occupied on the south side by Tandanya, a museum of Indigenous Australian art, and on the north side by the East End Markets redevelopment.

Grenfell Street runs from King William Street to East Terrace, Adelaide. It is one of the intermediate–width streets of the Adelaide grid, at 1 1⁄2 chains (99 ft; 30 m) wide.

Halls Creek, Western Australia

Halls Creek is a town situated in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. It is located between the towns of Fitzroy Crossing and Turkey Creek (Warmun) on the Great Northern Highway. It is the only sizeable town for 600 km on the Highway.

Halls Creek is also the northern end of the Canning Stock Route, which runs 1,850 km through the Great Sandy Desert until the southern end of the route at Wiluna.

The town functions as a major hub for the local indigenous population and as a support centre for cattle stations in the area.

Halls Creek is the administration centre for Halls Creek Shire Council.

Josepha Petrick Kemarre

Josepha Petrick Kemarre (born ca. 1945 or ca. 1953, date uncertain) is an Anmatyerre-speaking Indigenous Australian artist from Central Australia. Since first taking up painting around 1990, her works of contemporary Indigenous Australian art have been acquired by several major collections including Artbank and the National Gallery of Victoria. Her paintings portray bush plum "dreaming" and women’s ceremonies (known as Awelye). One of her paintings sold at a charity auction for A$22,800. Josepha Petrick's works are strongly coloured and formalist in composition and regularly appear at commercial art auctions in Australia. Her art appears to have survived the huge contraction of the primary art market in Australia since 2008. There is no existing Catalogue raisonné of Josepha Petrick's artworks, to date, no fakes have been cited.

Ju Ju Wilson

Ju Ju Wilson (born at Mantinea Flats, northern part of Western Australia) is an Aboriginal artist and part of the contemporary Indigenous Australian art movement. Besides being a prolific painter, tour guide, much sought-after cultural advisor, she is also an expert in bush tucker and medicines, author of booklets (on these subjects), didgeridoo maker and player, authority on Aboriginal sacred sites and rock art.She is frequently invited to make appearances on television shows to talk about her art and abilities, such as her 2008 appearance on Ray Mears Goes Walkabout on BBC Two.

Judy Watson Napangardi

Judy Napangardi Watson (circa 1925 - 2016) was an Indigenous Australian, senior female painter from the Yuendumu community in the Northern Territory, Australia. Well known for the distinctive style of painting that she developed alongside her sister Maggie Watson who taught her painting skills, she was a significant contributor to contemporary Indigenous Australian art.

King Edward River

The King Edward River is a river in the Kimberley of Western Australia.

The headwaters of the river rise below Poonjurra Hill and flows in a northerly direction almost parallel with the Kalumburu Road and eventually discharges into Deep Bay then Napier Broome Bay and finally the Indian Ocean.

The river has seven tributaries including; Carson River, Drum Creek, Noolawayoo Creek, Coondillah Creek and Hair Creek.

The river contains several permanent pools, where examples of Indigenous Australian art known as Bradshaw paintings can be found along the cliff faces.The river was named in 1901 by the surveyor Frederick Brockman while on expedition in the area. The river is named after King Edward VII, the reigning monarch at the time.The traditional owners of the areas around the river are the Miwa, Wunambal and Kambure peoples.

Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection

The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia houses one of the finest indigenous Australian art collections in the world, rivaling many of the collections held in Australia. The museum houses many important breakthrough paintings of the Papunya movement and Arnhem Land artists.

The museum was formed after the collections of businessman John Werner Kluge and academic, the late Professor Edward L. Ruhe, of the University of Kansas, were amalgamated. The collection comprises approximately 1850 objects including bark paintings, acrylic on canvas paintings, sculpture, and artefacts. The director of the Kluge-Ruhe Collection is anthropologist Dr. Margo Smith OAM.

The museum is located at Pantops Farm, a university-owned property once owned by Thomas Jefferson, outside Charlottesville, Virginia.

List of Australian Indigenous art movements and cooperatives

Australian Indigenous art movements and cooperatives have been central to the emergence of Indigenous Australian art. Whereas many western artists pursue formal training and work as individuals, most contemporary Indigenous art is created in community groups and art centres.The following external sites are links to some of the Aboriginal-owned and -operated art cooperatives. These cooperatives reflect the diversity of art across Indigenous Australia from the north west region where oscachre is significantly used; to the tropical north where the use of cross-hatching prevails; to the Papunya style of art from the central desert cooperatives. Art is increasingly becoming a significant source of income and livelihood for some of these communities.

List of Indigenous Australian visual artists

Numerous Indigenous Australians are noted for their participation in, and contributions to, the Visual arts of Australia and abroad. Contemporary Indigenous Australian art is a national movement of international significance with work by Indigenous artists, including paintings by those from the Western Desert, achieving widespread critical acclaim.

Because naming conventions for Indigenous Australians vary widely, this list is ordered by first name rather than surname.

Ada Andy Napaltjarri

Albert Namatjira

Anatjari Tjakamarra

Archie Moore

Barbara Weir

Biddy Rockman Napaljarri

Bill Yidumduma Harney

Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri

Bronwyn Bancroft

Brook Andrew

Cassidy Possum Tjapaltjarri

Christian Thompson

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri

Daisy Jugadai Napaltjarri

Danie Mellor

Darren Siwes

David Malangi

Dorothy Napangardi

Eileen Napaltjarri

Elisa-Jane Carmichael

Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Fiona Foley

Freddy Timms

Gloria Petyarre

Gordon Bennett

Hannah Bronte

Harold Thomas – designer of the Aboriginal flag

Helen Nelson Napaljarri

Ian Abdulla

Jack Dale Mengenen

Jimmy Pike Kurnti Kujarri

John Mawurndjul

John Moriarty

Johnny Bulunbulun

Josepha (Josie) Petrick Kemarre

Judy Watson

Judy Watson Napangardi

Juju Wilson

Kathleen Ngale

Kathleen Petyarre

Kitty Pultara Napaljarri

Lily Kelly Napangardi

Lin Onus

Linda Syddick Napaltjarri

Lisa Bellear

Louisa Napaljarri

Lucy Napaljarri Kennedy

Maggie Napaljarri Ross

Makinti Napanangka

Margaret Scobie

Mawukura (Mulgra) Jimmy Nerrimah

Megan Cope

Mervyn Bishop

Michael Nelson Tjakamarra

Michael Riley

Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri

Minnie Pwerle

Molly Jugadai Napaltjarri

Mona Rockman Napaljarri

Naata Nungurrayi

Ngoia Pollard Napaltjarri

Nora Andy Napaltjarri

Norah Nelson Napaljarri

Nyakul Dawson

Nyuju Stumpy Brown

Paddy Bedford

Paddy Japaljarri Stewart

Paji Honeychild Yankarr

Pansy Napangardi

Parara Napaltjarri

Peggy Rockman Napaljarri

Queenie McKenzie

Revel Cooper

Richard Bell

Rosella Namok

Rover Thomas

Sally Morgan

Sheila Brown Napaljarri

Shirley Purdie

Sid Domic

Susie Bootja Bootja Napaltjarri

Takariya Napaltjarri

Timmy Payungka Tjapangati

Tjunkiya Napaltjarri

Tjyllyungoo (Lance Chadd)

Tracey Moffatt

Tommy Watson

Tony Albert

Topsy Gibson Napaljarri

Tracey Moffat – photographer and filmmaker

Valerie Lynch Napaltjarri

Wenten Rubuntja

Wintjiya Napaltjarri

William Barak

Yilpi Adamson

Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute

The Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, usually referred to as Tandanya, is an art museum located on Grenfell Street in Adelaide, South Australia. It specialises in promoting Indigenous Australian art, including visual art, music and storytelling.

The institute derives its name from "Tarndanya", the Kaurna Aboriginal people's name for the Adelaide city and parklands area, meaning "place of the red kangaroo". Established in 1989, it is the oldest Aboriginal-owned and -run cultural centre in Australia.Its core activities, as listed in the 2015-6 Annual Report, are: visual arts (exhibitions program); performing arts (events, theatre and performances); community arts (public art); cultural performances and information; school education activities; cultural and artistic tours; Indigenous infused café; Gallery Shop retailing Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Artworks. The centre is governed by a 10-member Board of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent and residing in South Australia. A Chief executive officer is responsible for its day-to-day operations.The centre hosts the annual Art Fair, part of the Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art each year, and runs programs and performances as part of NAIDOC Week.Funding continues through the Australia Council for the Arts, and discussions have been under way about a new cultural exhibition centre as part of the redevelopment of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site on North Terrace.


Tjyllyungoo is the traditional name of the landscape painter Lance Chadd, a Noongar man from Western Australia. Tjyllyungoo's paintings are internationally recognised and held in a number of collections.

Born in 1954, he grew up in the south-west regional town of Bunbury, located within Noongar country. He began painting professionally, in 1981, without having taken formal training. His unique realistic style is akin to those of Hans Heysen and Albert Namatjira, to whose work he was introduced at an early age. His uncles Alan Kelly and Reynold Hart were also fine landscape painters at the Carrolup Mission settlement.

While his work is identified with Indigenous Australian art, his paintings are imbued with these traditional influences through his depiction of the landscapes in his country. In contrast to indigenous abstractions, also recognised internationally, his work is well received by those without a knowledge of the cultural or spiritual beliefs of the Noongar people.

Vivien Johnson

Vivien Johnson is an Australian sociologist, writer on Indigenous Australian art, and editor-in-chief of the Dictionary of Australian Artists Online.

Johnson is notable for the publication of several key reference works in the field of contemporary Indigenous Australian art, including Western Desert Artists: A Biographical Dictionary (1995), Lives of the Papunya Tula Artists (2008) and Once Upon a Time in Papunya (2010). In 2005 she was made Professor of New Media Narrative and Theory at the University of New South Wales.The UNSW subsequently refrained from renewing her contract and lost this unique resource despite her research and standing. She retrained in primary education and now work in remote teaching in the NT.


Warlugulong (1977) is an acrylic on canvas painting by Indigenous Australian artist Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. Owned for many years by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the work was sold by art dealer Hank Ebes on 24 July 2007, setting a record price for a contemporary Indigenous Australian art work bought at auction when it was purchased by the National Gallery of Australia for A$2.4 million. The painting illustrates the story of an ancestral being called Lungkata, together with eight other dreamings associated with localities about which Clifford Possum had traditional knowledge. It exemplifies a distinctive painting style developed by Papunya Tula artists in the 1970s, and blends representation of landscape with ceremonial iconography. Art critic Benjamin Genocchio describes it as "a work of real national significance [and] one of the most important 20th-century Australian paintings".

Westerfolds Park

Westerfolds Park is a metropolitan park situated in Templestowe, an eastern suburb of Melbourne, Australia.

Westerfolds is classified as a metropolitan park and conserves riparian habitat within the Melbourne urban environment. The park nestles into a hilly bend in the Yarra River and has a network of bitumen and gravel paths, shelters, playgrounds, picnic tables and electric barbecues. It is a popular spot for picnics, and family gatherings on the weekend and public holidays. Other recreational pursuits include walking, cycling, rollerblading, walking the family dog, canoeing, horse riding and bird watching.

Near the centre of the park atop a large hill lies the Manor House which housed the Mia Mia Gallery and Cafe, Indigenous Australian cultural education programs and galley exhibiting Indigenous Australian Art.

Mia Mia closed in 2013 and is no longer situated at the Park.

New business tenents are currently being sought with a view to further develop, refurbish and restore the manor.

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