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Ancient Cultures Series

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Indigenous Art of Australia

Australian Indigenous art and culture is the oldest continuous tradition on the planet. In the last century, it has also emerged as one of the world’s most important contemporary art movements. Whether on bark, canvas, or in new media, Indigenous artists have used art to express the power and beauty of their culture, to show their enduring connection to, and responsibility for, ancestral lands and the continuity of their identities and beliefs. They settled on the Australian continent somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 years ago. They survived mainly because of their reverence and “oneness with nature”. Their art is a direct reflection of their beliefs. Indigenous art is centered on storytelling and there is no written language for Australian Indigenous People. To convey their important cultural stories through the generations they are portrayed by symbols, dots, and designs in their paintings, known as “Dreamings”. Dreamtime is the period in which Indigenous people believe the world was created. The Dreamtime stories are up to and possibly even exceeding 50,000 years old, and have been handed down through the generations for all those years.

Traditionally paintings were drawn on rock walls or sand, using ground pigments to form watercolors. In 1971, a teacher working with children near Alice Springs noticed while the men were telling stories they would draw symbols in the sand, so he encouraged them to paint their stories on canvas and board. This was a major development in the history of art. It began the Indigenous Art movement, which has been identified as the most exciting and influential contemporary art form of the 20th Century. Indigenous Australian art has changed a lot over 55,000 years and is continually evolving. Contemporary artists' work can be seen in all of the major museum collections and galleries throughout the world.


During this lesson, we had numerous absences due to snow days, and

other activities, so it stretched over two weeks. The class had the freedom

to choose their subject matter and colors. The brightly colored pieces

were done with KwikSticks, Tempra paint sticks, and markers. I love the

diversity and individual attention to the signature style of the artists of

Australia, in the design and patterns of their

mixed media paintings.



 Week One: Cave Paintings

It has been an eventful week in our Art Literacy class. We have been all around the world.  I would like to thank all of my wonderful students for their great efforts. We began with the story of the discovery of the discovery of cave paintings in Lascaux,  France  and also looked at images from  Spain , where the oldest known cave paintings have been found,  in the cave called El Castillo. The prehistoric dots and crimson hand stencils are now the world's oldest known cave art that dates more than 40,800 years old.

© Serene Greene- Art Literacy Academy
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