Animals in Aboriginal Art — The Turtle
Marine turtles have lived in ocean waters for over 100 million years and are a vital part of the culture and lifestyle of first nations peoples and coastal Indigenous communities across the world. These turtles have a large shell called a carapace, four strong flippers and lungs for breathing air as they are reptiles.
Australia has some of the largest marine turtle nesting areas in the Indo-Pacific region. Of the seven species of marine turtle in the world, six of them are found in Australian waters.
Turtles as Food and Jewellery
Turtles are a favoured food source in Indigenous communities around Australia. They are also an essential element of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Hunting turtles and the preparation as well as sharing of its meat has a great significance and is an expression of the continuance of traditions. The turtle shell has also been historically fashioned into combs and fishhooks.
Due to the significance of turtles in Australian Indigenous communities, they appear as totems and in Dreamtime stories as well as Creation myths. The hunting of these animals is allowed when done sustainably and is managed and controlled by social laws that reflect links between families and totems. These marine creatures demonstrate connection with traditional sea country.
Turtle Representation in Aboriginal Art
The main regions with paintings featuring turtles include:
- Maningrida, Ramingining and Ngukurr in Arnhemland
- Tiwi Islands
- Daly River in NT
- Torres Strait Islands
- Cape York Peninsula in Queensland
- Mowanjum and Broome in the Kimberley
The traditional marks of Arnhemland artists often include turtles that are drawn with fine lines or cross-hatching over their shells. Many paintings also highlight dreamtime stories that feature the turtle—either on its own or as part of a larger narrative. One of the dreamtime stories, is called Wayamba the Turtle: a tale that shows the beginning of Wayamba, the turtle in the creek.
Discover the Beauty of Aboriginal Artwork with Mbantua Gallery
At Mbantua, we have been working with many talented Aboriginal artists to help showcase their talent and culture. We have beautiful artwork featuring turtles for you to browse. We also have a whole range of traditional aboriginal artwork featuring different animals and styles of painting. Feel free to browse our range and get to know our artists, their community and their style of artwork. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want to know more about the Aboriginal art we offer.