Top 10 Facts about Australian Aboriginal Art

Australian Aboriginal Art

Aboriginal art is the earliest and oldest form of artistic creation or expression in the world. It points us back to several centuries ago when the first people of Australia came and settled in the country.

History of Australian Aboriginal Art

History of Australian Aboriginal Art
Art displayed at Burrunju Art Gallery

In reference, it means that the Australian Aboriginal art all started about sixty to eighty thousand years ago. That’s the recorded timeframe in the history of Aborigines from the relevant architectural remains and human bones retrieved by researchers.

Visible Evidence

The evident proof of these Aboriginal arts is substantially part of the relevant architectural remains found on the rocks where they settled or dwelt. These are the various creative carvings visibly seen on the stone’s caves, expressing their cultural philosophy, religious beliefs, and artistic skills.

One of the many art carvings that the scientists found in the cavings of the dwelling place of the first people in Australia is in the Northern Territory of the Arnhem Land. They were able to create these artistic carvings, including paintings and ground designs, with the use of rocks and soil.

The soils that they used to create artistic carves and paints on rocks are the natural clay called the ochres, which may come in yellow or red. The archaeologists were able to discover many primal campsites to which they dated the remains and findings found inside and outside in as far as centuries ago.

Moreover, the experts didn’t find any written language in these creative remains of the Australian Aboriginals. They played around with icons and symbols in their artworks to share and relay their important cultural stories with the generations to come.

It is imperative to pass on their knowledge and information to preserve their rich culture. Focused on storytelling, Aboriginal Australian Art chronicles their ideas or thoughts of the land, and everything in between, such as their beliefs and events during their time.

Aboriginals also used symbols as their alternative to writing down relevant stories of cultural significance. They also used different symbols to teach survival skills and the proper use of the land. Nevertheless, the interpretations of the iconography found on the architectural remains differ, which depends on the audience in witness.

Withal, we’ve listed down the top ten (10) facts surrounding the arts of the Aboriginal Australians to understand them better.

Top 10 Facts about Australian Aboriginal Art
Burrunju Art Gallery

Top 10 Facts about Australian Aboriginal Art

Australian Aboriginal art is inarguably the last outstanding art movement of the twentieth century.  It’s the most long-standing, impressive and impactful arts in history. By saying so, below is the top 10 facts that you should know about them.

Australian Aboriginal Art Used Symbols or Icons Instead of Written Language

They don’t have written language carved in their artworks. Perhaps, it could be that they don’t have the means yet at that time to learn any literary words. And so, they used traditional symbols or icons to convey their culture, knowledge of the land, and relevant information.

Australian Aboriginal Art Centers More on the Visual Language

They are more into the visual language than the written. Aside from the symbols or icons that are significantly evident in their artworks, they also make creative song and dance productions and recounted stories to help them pass some crucial information about their culture, and in the process, preserve it.

Australian Aboriginal Art Circles Around Dreamtime Stories

Extensively wide-ranging components of the modern Aboriginal art, which tells on the significant ancient symbols and stories, circles around to what they call as “the Dreamtime.”

The latter is the period to which the Aborigines believed the time of the world’s creation. These stories are reportedly up to or more than five hundred centuries old that have been passed down from one generation to generations throughout those years.

Australian Aboriginal Art Takes Part in Teaching New Generations

They also used their paintings to teach the new generation as they can depict a visual story, which the Aboriginal Australians employ for different purposes. And interpretations of the iconography or the symbols in their artwork pieces vary accordingly, from audiences to audiences.

That said, the story may take a simple form when shared with children and much more different and intensify when told to elders.

Australian Aboriginal Art Hides Secrets of Information in Dots

Another distinct and interesting truth behind the artworks of the Australian Aboriginals is the valuable information that they secretly concealed through their dot paintings. The reason for hiding facts in dots is due to the concern they raised about white men learning the knowledge that they discretely kept. 

They used the dots or over-dotting arts to conceal the covert iconography or symbols underneath. This artistry has transformed into various creative pieces, such as the classical style, represented by the Pintupi tribe’s work of arts.

Australian Aboriginal Art Comes in Multi-layered Meanings

Australian Aboriginal Art Comes in Multi-layered Meanings
Burrunju Art Gallery

Apart from the concealed secrets, Australian Aboriginal art has many meanings. Usually, there are three (3) various levels or versions of the virtual language of Indigenous Australians.

  • General form
  • Public or children’s version
  • Spiritual or ceremonial type

The ritual version may sometimes contain three layers of meanings within it. And as they grow up, Aboriginals learn more languages. For that reason, they are gaining more knowledge of their culture and ceremonies as well as the country as a whole.

Tons of artworks portray the public or children’s category of a dreaming story. The plot may look simple but comprises of multitudinous of levels or layers connected to it.

Australian Aboriginal Art Requires Permission

Any artist who wants to paint an Aboriginal dreaming story must ask for permission. Australian Aboriginals are quite strict and protective of their cultural arts that to create an artwork on a particular plot from their dreaming, they require consent.

The reason behind it is that their arts hold significant ancient stories, secrets, and sacred information. That is why, for an artist to be able to paint one of them, they should request approval from the appropriate Aboriginal group.

More so, traditional Aboriginal artists cannot do the same thing when they don’t own the dreaming or when it belongs to a different family lineage.

Australian Aboriginal Art is Expensive

Australian Aboriginal Art can cost millions of dollars, and the highest price paid by a buyer for one painting is a whopping amount of two million dollars.

That painting is a work of art entitled “Warlugulong” by the creative hands of Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. For an Aboriginal woman’s paint, the highest amount recorded was more than a million dollars. It was the brilliant masterpiece of Emily Kame Kngwarreye named “Earth’s Creation.”

Australian Aboriginal Art’s U Symbol Has a Meaning

One of the distinctions noticed by many art enthusiasts is the U-shape that comes with the Australian Aboriginal Art. Well, it means something. Remember that they used their arts to depict their culture and knowledge. And just like their other artworks, the symbol U has a meaning.

Although it is not thought-provoking or mind-blowing, it does mean something. The U or the crescent shape stands for people in general, both man and woman. It portrays people who are sitting in a U-shape at a particular site, such as in camps or a meeting area.

Australian Aboriginal Art is the Longest Surviving Culture

Due to the evident remains of the history of Australian Aboriginals, it also comes in the territory that their arts are the longest existing culture that the world has known and seen.

Their artworks also hold deep-rooted meaning and information on their cultural behavior, knowledge, and spiritual teachings. They also pertain to knowledge and practical skills on how to survive.

With the anthropological and artistic valuable elements that Australian Aboriginal arts keep, they deserved to be in galleries and museums. Even the latest paintings or artworks made by one of the new generations of Aboriginals hold a special place and importance in the world of the museums and galleries.


Irrefutably, the Australian Aboriginal art has nurtured and strengthened the cultural development and revival in an immensely significant manner for the Indigenous people. With the older artists teaching the young generations, it has fortified or revitalized the younger Aboriginals’ appreciation and knowledge of their colourful and meaningful culture.

Other than that, there have also been bazillions of intangible benefits that the young Indigenous people gained from it, such as cultivating pride and increasing self-esteem of one’s cultural heritage.

In contrast, the non-Aboriginal Australians or other people, in general, will get to admire and devour the beauty that comes with the arts of the Aborigines, and thus, will start to create impactfully powerful decks of understanding.

Conclusively, we can say that despite the complexities of the world of the Australian Aboriginals, they take pride in the remarkable arts they created with exquisiteness in concealing secrets and information through dots and the jaw-dropping meanings of each symbol or their iconography on those pieces.

Therefore, making astounding contributions to arts and sciences as well as in literature, through visual languages in their presentation of their culture through various artworks from their Dreamings.

Special thanks to Burrunju Art Gallery who gave me and my family a tour and education on the history of Aboriginal Art. I made a purchase and I love it.

Also See : Darwin Aboriginal Art Festival

How Did Aboriginals Get to Australia

Dave P
Dave P
Be a little better today than yesterday.
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