Aboriginal Art - Recognizing the Past in the Present
MICHAEL NELSON TJAKAMARRA (b.1949)
Five Stories, 1985 (acrylics on canvas)
Aboriginal Art is the longest continuous artistic tradition in the world, stretching back generation after generation for over fifty millennia. It preceded all the great civilizations and survived as each of them faded. From the 18th century it endured the colonisation, marginalisation and oppression of the British Empire, yet still managed to prevail in the 21st century as the only notable Australian art movement to register on the international stage. Unlike the art movements of the west which have a limited timeline, Aboriginal art continues to evolve by drawing on a range of styles and techniques that link the past to the present through a visual tradition founded on the cultural stories from 'The Dreaming'.
Aboriginal Art plays a major role in keeping indigenous culture alive. It is a powerful educational tool that operates on many levels: it can be a reference manual for survival in the bush, a record of historical events, a code of cultural behaviour, a guide to spiritual knowledge, or a map or title deed for a specific territory. Whatever its meaning, it reinforces the holistic values of Aboriginal life that are suppressed by the modern world and offers an honorable identity that helps to inspire a sense of community, both in Australia and around the world.