The Role of Dreamtime in Aboriginal Art
Dreamtime is the term used to describe a set of Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and existence, stemming back to the beginning of time. These are handed down by generations through stories, songs, ceremony and art. Dreamtime shape understandings of family, law, obligations to the land and people, to build a sense of who they are. So, what role does dreamtime play in the creation of aboriginal art?
Connection to country
Country is a way that the Aboriginal people connect to who they are. It’s looked upon as a second skin, a sense of belonging. Dreamtime stories express this strong connection to the land and culture passed on from generations, and therefore it’s rare to find Aboriginal art that doesn’t embody country.
Art is a way for Aboriginal people to explore the land they are so deeply connected to. From the ancestors of the past, to the children of the future, they all have and will explore country that is so precious to them. Colour, landscapes, animals and symbols are included in their art as a way of depicting and preserving country.
Dreamtime stories are passed down from generation to generation, not only through word but through art too. The skills of creating art is shared amongst relatives, made in collaboration which communities and techniques passed down from ancestors.
The skill of traditional aboriginal art is shared through social networks and structures that mimic the role dreamtime plays in aboriginal communities. A network of sharing, learning and connecting each generation to the next.
Ceremony is an important part of the aboriginal culture, and one expression of ceremony is body art. However, this type of art tells the story of the person wearing it and their connection to animals, environment, family, and the land. The symbols painted on their bodies hold cultural meanings and it’s these meanings that shape the individual within their communities. So rather than through the spoken word, their set of beliefs are indicated through paint.
Dreamtime is thought to have survived 65,000 years and it’s the community elders that continue to uphold the traditions and keep these stories alive. Although the verbal word holds significance, it is the art that remains intact and capturing the stories of what is important in Aboriginal culture.
If you would like to learn more about Aboriginal history and art, feel free to read through our previous blogs. You can contact the Mbantua Gallery for information about the Aboriginal artwork we sell or browse our wide range on our website.