Painting by Dorothy Napangardi
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Tree trunks, Alice Springs
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Painting by Johnny Warangkula
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Todd River bed, Gum tree, Alice Springs
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Painting by Kathleen Petyarre
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Simpson Desert, Northern Territory
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It needs to be remembered that Central and Western Desert art works, and the narratives in which they are embedded, comprise high levels of information about the environment, site-specific ‘deep ecology’, interactions between species, as well as offering templates for human intereactions, and ethical and moral guidance. The art work itself acts as a kind of visual shorthand representing these Dreaming narratives, which encrypt Indigenous social memory, or what could be described as ‘cultural DNA.’ Focussing exclusively on the abstract, formal qualities of such art works is ultimately eurocentric, because such interpretations are premised on the suppression or even erasure of this considerable substratum of cultural meaning. This potentially leads to permanent cultural loss on the part of the Indigneous custodians of these narratives.

Christine Nicolls, from Dancing Up Country

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