Aboriginal Dot Art

The Aborigines have cave paintings that are as old as 30000 years. Such cave paintings were used to illustrate the legends and stories of mythical beings that created the earth as we know it today. Such stories are referred to as Dreamings which, in aboriginal culture, is an explanation the origin of something or how it was created. Aboriginal dot art was brought to the limelight thanks to the work of an art teacher, Geoffrey Bardon, in the 1970s. As an art teacher to the Papunya, an aboriginal community assimilated from the desert, he encouraged the children to paint a mural based on traditional dreamings on the schools. This sparked interest in the community who took it up resulting in the genesis of the Western Desert art movement which is internationally recognized as one of the most important events Australian art history.

Geoffrey Bardon helped the aboriginal artists transfer the dreamings from desert sand to paint on canvas. However, the use sacred and secret objects in these paintings offended the aboriginal elders. Such sacred designs were only used in specific ceremonies and were applied using soil. After the ceremony, the soil would be smoothed over and uninitiated people never got to see these sacred designs. However, with canvas paintings the sacred designs were there for everyone to see which prompted an outcry from the aborigines. The artists eliminated the sacred elements and abstracted these designs into dots to conceal their sacred designs. Thus aboriginal dot art was born.


Aboriginal dot art uses a variety of natural materials such as orche pigments and bark which create dots, circles and curved/ straight lines which are the basic set of symbols at the core of this form of art. The dot paintings have developed from desert paintings created by various aboriginal clans as they moved through the desert. The clans gathered around in a clear area where the sand paintings were illustrated using seeds, flowers, sand and other natural substances.

The early aboriginal dot art clearly depicted sacred objects but this style disappeared within years. The first paintings were never sold since they were produced by people who were displaced from their home and the works were a visual representation of who they were and where they came from. Essentially, they were painting their identity. Today, this art is sold to the world in form of board and canvas paintings. The core meaning is of utmost significance to the Papunya but may seem meaningless to outsiders. Such sensitive information is never divulged to outsiders. While even within the clan, only senior ranking males understand the full meaning of the designs.

Aboriginal dot art, whether a concealer of deeper spiritual meaning or just symbols, has become increasingly complex and innovative artistically. It uses dots and pattern techniques that result in objects and shapes to merge in and out of one another. This art is also very important since it depicts traditional stories and ceremonies thus it plays a major role in saving this culture for future generations.

Facts behind the Intriguing Aboriginal Art

The Aboriginal culture has for a long time been a phenomenon that most people marvel about. However, what has been more fascinating is their form of art that has been used more as a tool of communication. This is more so proven to be true as most of the information that has been revealed about the ancient aboriginal culture has been done so through their art. That is why understanding this form of art as more of a communication tool than just pricey and utterly impressive tools is very vital to understanding their culture as well as their history. Here are some facts about this form of art that you may not have known and those that may help you realize their importance.

First off, the aboriginal art is inspired by religious events, rituals and totems. It is also based on the myth of the dream time and with this type of art, there is a story behind every drawing. Even though the drawing is considered to have a variety of layers as to its meaning depending on the aboriginal artiste, there is no question that every piece of art in this culture is made to reflect a given ritual, occurrence in the dream time or a totem with which a particular clan relates itself to. This could be an animal or a bird or a spiritual being. Because of this importance, it is why this form of art is used to teach by the aboriginals. 

The oldest form of aboriginal art is the painting on bark. However, considering that the bark is liable to decay and that the paints that were used to make this type of paintings are very short lived, these aged paintings are drastically becoming extinct. This was then preceded by drawing on leaves, rocks and sand. Rock paintings are the ones that are more prevalent and as such they are what most people have come to familiarize themselves with perhaps more so because of the durable nature of the rock. 

There are a number of factors that dictate what an artist can draw and the form of art that they draw. For instance, an artist has to seek permission if they are to draw a painting that is sensitive and more so relates to the secrets of the culture or a sacred ritual that is related to the aborigines. This is so to conserve and respect the culture and its belief. Furthermore, a traditional aboriginal artist cannot make a drawing of something that is not related to them through the family lineage. It may sound unrealistic but considering that these art pieces are tools that are meant to communicate the relevance of a symbol to a certain clan or a certain ritual that took place, it is only realistic that the artist is able to draw what they comprehend and what is well understood by them. 

All the technicalities and the seriousness aside, it is worth noting on a lighter note that there are two museums in the world that are dedicated to displaying aboriginal art exclusively. These include one located in Holland that is known as the Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art and the other is the Kluge-Rune collection in the University of Virginia. It is also worth noting that among the priciest aboriginal art sold in recent times was priced at AU$240,000 and was sold in 2007 by artiste Yannima Pikarli Tommy Watson. Suddenly it doesn’t seem so confusing why this form of art arouses a lot of interest.

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