“Dreamtime” Australia's Indigenous Spiritual of Art

In the tens thousands of years of history, indigenous people not only created a rich culture also have the highly developed and complex religious beliefs, social systems and regulations. Although indigenous people never established any form of government and regime, their social order was maintained very well on the basis of their religious beliefs. Generations of indigenous people used oral circulation to inherited and developed these beliefs and regulations. After white people arrived this place, they called indigenous religion and their social system, which established on religious belief "Dreamtime” because they could not understand their cultures. During the “dreamtime “, the indigenous people believed that life would die together forever, making dream as a creation of all things and using oral method from generation to generation, to ensure the inheritance of indigenous culture and social continuity. Although the indigenous people who were based on family ties had hundreds or thousands of different tribes and spoke hundreds of different languages, they were convinced of the legend of the ancestors and the legend of the dream (Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime).

Untitled – Tingari and Ancestral Country

By: Patrick Tjungurrayi

According to the beliefs of the indigenous people in Australia, the ancestors of the gods once with the mysterious python body meandered on the Australian earth and left a criss-cross, maze general footsteps. On the way, ancestral gods created all things in the world, including all the mountains and rivers today. This is the aboriginal belief in the "dreamtime". Thus, every indigenous tribe closely linked with their land, and every piece of land had a mysterious sanctuary that worshiped ancestors(The Dreaming). Indigenous paintings, songs and dances also reflect their close relationship with land and ancestors. For the indigenous people of Australia, the ancestral gods in the beginning of the world were eternal, and the gods are still energetic in the modern world and are manifested through indigenous art. Painting, music, dance can be passed down from generation to generation, and guide and inspire the indigenous people forever even though there were many the European white man's barrier(Australian Indigenous Ceremony). In all parts of Australia today, although all indigenous tribes have experienced varying degrees of cultural intrusions, their customs, traditions and important sites are still preserved and respected. This is because the dreamtime era of the creation of the gods passed down the jurisprudence, customs and behaviour norms, which still lead and inspire the daily life of many indigenous descendants. They rely on this “Dreamtime” of memory and consciousness to link the past, the modern time and the future.

Aboriginal boys dancing at an aboriginal dance festival in North Queensland, Australia. (Photo: John Miles)

The belief in the "Dreamtime" became the source of inspiration for all kinds of indigenous art, the content of expression and the form of creation. Song and dance, painting reflects the dream of what happened, spears and basket products. In addition, other daily necessities are full of religious colours because the indigenous people believed that they were also created by the ancestral gods. In the folk song, dance and story legend, the ancestral gods are in different forms. Sometimes they are people, but more often they are animals, such as kangaroos or crocodiles, and sometimes they are even rocks or trees and some life-free entities. According to the beliefs of the indigenous people, the ancestral gods often changed their forms. They sometimes swim like fish, jump like kangaroos, sometimes as people sing, and sometimes transform into rocks or trees (Australian Indigenous Ceremony). In the traditional indigenous tribes, everyone had their own patron saint. From the beginning of life, everyone closely linked with their patron saint, which affected the indigenous art creation theme and the choice of theme.

Although Indigenous people were scattered throughout Australia in a relatively primitive living environment, their culture and art are quite developed that make many contemporary artists are amazing. Aborigines communicated their souls through their dreams. In the dreamtime, people seemed to see the creation of heaven and earth, the national origin of their myths, the childhood fairy tale and human growth process filled with humor, blur and eccentric episode. For the indigenous people, the dream is describing the rich and the concept of internal relations, which include the value and spirit. After the Ancestral gods created all the things in the world and human society, they turned back to nature and became streams, ponds, rock formations or the contours and marks on the rock. All these were manifested through indigenous art, and made their music and dances pass down from generation to generation. These arts constantly instructed and inspired indigenous peoples' lives.

Painting is the most prominent of indigenous art. They not only painted on the rocks, bark, holy goods and the ground but also in their own body painting. The pattern of traditional paintings consists of lines, circles and dots, which usually contain stories or represent some kinds of natural phenomena, natural forces and the creation of the gods. With a certain religion or spiritual connotation, its meaning in the different tribes are different. Aboriginal rock paintings have been recognized as the world's oldest descendants. The history of rock paintings is estimated to be 30,000 years (Australian Indigenous Art). It is divided into two types. One is knife and smear, and another one is direct description. Aboriginal artists used white clay, red or yellow ocher, charcoal and water to mix together for painting. There are a lot of paintings about the ancestors throughout Australia. It is said that these paintings were created by ancestors, not descendants. People inherited these sacred pictures and took on the work of supplementing the color, repairing the worn, and redrawing over and over again. This makes many images beyond the meaning of the picture itself. They represent the real spiritual power of the ancestors (Facts about Aboriginal Art). Whenever descendants redraw the paintings or touch the paintings in the ceremony, their divine power will be released to ensure that the replacement of seasons will be on time, Animals and plants will reproduce, and the children will born successfully.

Bradshaw rock paintings found in the north-west Kimberley region of Western Australia

The rock paintings record the major events of the Australian Aborigines and provide a very valuable clue for people to understand the indigenous people. rock paintings have been recognized as the oldest and most traditional paintings in the world, and the ancient arts which were carved or portrayed on rocks are everywhere in Australia. Their contents are mostly about myth of "Dreams" and animals and plants, etc. The forms of these paintings are quite simple, including geometric shapes and images. Generally, these forms have a certain meaning and a visual language which record or symbolize a thing or event, such as the locations of rivers and mountains, ancestral footprint and hunting routes and so on.

Their spiritual world in the religious belief and the concept of life and death, are fully demonstrated in the rock paintings. The rock art in Australia is varied. Although most of them are cliffs, actually they cover the entire area of Australia, and they have naturalistic style and abstract symbolic style. In southern and south-central Australia, abstract and patterned rock paintings are very good. they chiseled circles, spirals, combs, maze images and extremely rough characters. Geometric style works make people remember the decoration on the amulet. The coastal areas of central Western Australia are the most concentrated areas of rock carving. Most of the rock carvings were made on the surface of boulders, chiseled or ground to dark brown, and the ocher were shown on the rocks. Western Australia and all the indigenous people of Kimberley highland as other Australian primitive tribal people believe that the former earth and animals are not like this now. In Genesis, their ancestors had supernatural powers. When they lived on earth, they reshaped the nature. Their spiritual world later gradually from the Earth to the entire universe changed their own image to be the pure spirit of things. The so-called "creation period" has many stages: dreams, eternal dreams and so on. When the "creation period" of the ancestors were still living on earth, they not only had many adventure activities but also created a lot of confusing myths, legends, from generation to generation. the legend and mythology described how the various animals initially obtained their images. For example, the myth of the Kimberley Plateau describes how pheasants get their colorful feathers and so on. Some other myths are related to the development of mankind and narrate how Gods created a complex marriage law through their internal marriages. Some Important myths not only handed down through the form of the story but also compiled in songs and dances for continuing to repeat the stories of those myths (Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime).

by Mijau Mijau Gunwinggu Tribe West Arnhem Land
by Naguljilmi Oenpelli, Arnhem Land

The history of bark painting is later than rock painting. Some Aboriginal people drew the pictures after drying and flattening the bark, and some Aboriginal people dried barks to be black for leaving the patterns on them. They outlined the animal's internal organs as X-ray paintings. The themes of these paintings are often related to a variety of indigenous legends and stories. Their painting styles are a little like Western modern decorative paintings. Sand and gravel paintings are commonly used in desert areas. Aboriginal people often drew them during the time of the sacrifices, and they were no longer preserved after the rituals. In some rituals, the dancers needed to hold some simple and vivid paintings on the woods while they were dancing. Many wooden prints were painted a circle of white dots around some black animals and plants. Those dots may tell a complex dreaming story that describes the path of a creator spirit and the events that happened along the way (Indigenous Australian Art).

Symbols used in Papunya Central Desert art – Established on information from “Papunya Tula” by Geoffrey Bardon

In the indigenous paintings, some of the abstract symbols exist alone, and some symbols decorate the concrete graphics in order to record or clarify the meaning of figurative graphics. We can imagine that the symbols and patterns of rock paintings are not just as a easy painting for reckless. Those simple line characterization, symbolic metaphors of profound connotations resemble our language today. These Symbols or the original notes sometimes described an event, sometimes set off a kind of sacred graphics, as well as metaphors of a certain concept, etc. In short, the abstract symbols on the rock paintings not only are the actual notes but also the metaphors of a mysterious ideas. In primitive time, the symbolic world was also an art kingdom. A variety of abstract symbols and patterns appeared in rock paintings. some simple symbols and patterns just have lines, some squares or stars; the complex patterns have circles and spirals , square and spirals, concentric circles, rhombic patterns, vortex patterns, curves Pattern and so on. There are also patterns of animal images and Gods-like images, which are very difficult to identify their real sources now. The geometric shapes of rock paintings around the world are abstract symbols. some of them are illustrated and cooperated with the surrounding graphics, but themselves were non-graphical because they only used abstract ways to express something or record certain events. However, some patterns may still have more complex contents. Abstract graphics have its symbolic meaning, but people tend to ignore that those concrete graphics often contain the meaning of symbols, metaphor of a mysterious ideas.

With the development of history, the progress of mankind, the indigenous art not only inherited the ancestral cultural heritage but also coalesced foreign art style. They have been innovative and progress in technology, technology, materials and forms . The combination of traditional art and modern art forms the unique indigenous art. The Australian Aboriginal art, which was created in the "dreamtime era", gained new life in the purgatory of modern art and wins praise in the world now.

Works Cited

"Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime." CORE SPIRIT. N.p., 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 03 May 2017. <http://www.corespirit.com/australian-aboriginal-dreamtime/>.

"The Dreaming." Australia.gov.au. Digital Transformation Agency, 01 Apr. 2015. Web. 03 May 2017.<http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/dreaming>.

"Australian Indigenous Ceremony – Song, Music and Dance." Australia.gov.au. Digital Transformation Agency, 21 Oct. 2015. Web. 03 May 2017.<http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/austn-indigenous-ceremony>.

"Australian Indigenous Art." Australia.gov.au. Digital Transformation Agency, 14June 2015. Web. 03 May 2017. <http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/austn-indigenous-art>.

"Facts about Aboriginal Art." Japingka Aboriginal Art Gallery. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 May 2017.<https://japingkaaboriginalart.com/articles/facts-about-aboriginal-art/>.

“Indigenous Australian Art. ”N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2017.<http://www.crystalinks.com/ausart.html>.

Photo Source

Canadian Business

Artlandish Aboriginal Art Gallery

Japingka Aboriginal Art

The Museum of Natural and Cultural History

Created By
mengting wei
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