Australia is a fairly young country, yet as a continent it has probably one of the longest histories in the world. People used to live here for thousands of years without ever contacting other nations. As a result, the culture that had formed in Australia was highly unique and therefore valuable. Its indigenous period continued for nearly 60,000 years – longer than in any other country that have already crossed each other’s ways. If you are interested in Australian art, here are its key variations that remain rooted in ethnic traditions even now.
Rock Painting From Australia
Like all primeval cultures, ancient Australian tribes depicted the surrounding world by engraving scenes from daily life and religious images on the walls of their caves. The earliest of such carvings created in Australia date back to 30,000 BC. This was also the time of first attempts at painting, mostly using brown, red, yellow and white colors.
Even today you can see these age-old monuments of visual art where they were originally made – on rocks still standing in their historical places. Most of them can be observed in national parks that protect them as national art legacy.
Out of all materials aboriginal art is created on, bark is probably the most exotic, especially if you imagine the kind of trees that grow in Australia. In the old times, this of painting used to have a sacral meaning. Each pattern represented a certain tribe or clan and could be only ‘worn’ by a person belonging to it. Most often it bark painting deals with geometric designs, although some works offer elaborate renditions of people, totem animals and mythological beings.
One of the most distinctive traits of Australian fine art, fiber sculpture is a unique craft of making three-dimensional objects using grass, cloth, string, paperback and any other material at hand. Traditionally, these were ceremonial items – figures of animals for a sacred dance or a tribe’s banner for a big holiday. Now fiber sculpture is mostly decorative even though people who make it stick with ethnic motifs and technologies.
Jewelry and Carved Shells
Australian craftsmen have always been at jewelry making. Using various gems and metals found in the locality, they created quirky necklaces and bracelets serving as talismans or giving hints about a person wearing them (whether they are married or not, what tribe they are from etc). One particularly Australian variety of this craft is shell carving. Large tropical seashells with gracious patterns carved on their surface look really exquisite.
This mysterious art form so often encountered among aboriginal tribes can be viewed as some sort of ancient sculpture. Almost everywhere in Australia you can come across groups of stones, ranging from 30cm to over a meter in height, set up in a certain sequence (for instance, round or square). Despite a clearly ritual context, researchers still can’t agree on the exact purpose of those arrangements.
Now when you learned about the main kinds of Australian indigenous art, you are almost prepared for a trip to this wonderful country! Make sure you visit all those thousand-year-old caves we just talked about and see the first rock carvings in human history with your own eyes!