Aboriginal Theatre Pre-Colonisation

Introduction-This form of Australian theatre was performed by aboriginals and is typically referred to as Dreamtime. These series of dances were performed at ceremonies and celebrations that involved story telling, music and dance. Dreamtime stories are still performed to this day. This style of theatre told stories about how the aboriginals believed the world and all it contains came about including how natural land features were formed. This form of story telling was the first type of theatre to be performed in Australia.

Dreamtime aboriginal theatre is tied to aboriginal culture, beliefs and the connections between the sacred, the physical and the human worlds. These stories about life are brought to life by the physical and verbal dialogue, costume and makeup, staging/location in which it is performed, art works and music.

Dance and language- Traditional dances were created for specific dreamtime stories and these may differentiate between tribes, some stories having originated in particular tribes and others having been adopted into their tribe and therefore may have minor alterations in the language, series of events throughout the story and choreography throughout the story. Variation in dreamtime stories often occurs due to each aboriginal tribe having their own language or variation of another tribe’s language.
Costume and makeup- Dirt, clay, plants, flowers and other elements were composed into an applicable form and transferred onto the face and body in a spiritually significant way. Selected traditional attire is also worn during the performance of dreamtime stories.
Staging/location- Dreamtime stories are performed on traditional ceremonial lands where ancient aboriginal rituals and stories were interrupted.
Artwork- Artworks produced by pre-colonisation aboriginals held deep meanings and told stories and legends related to the dreamtime stories. Each artwork contains a large amount of symbols and figures that speak their own artistic language communicating a story.
Music- Handmade instruments were used to create a musical element to accompany rituals and celebrations, instruments such as clap sticks, didgeridoos and seed rattles.

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