Designs and Design Stories
Aboriginal artists say ”our art is not just made up, it comes from the Dreaming.
We are sharing our culture with you through our art.” Works by Aboriginal artists are always accompanied by their design story. These stories tell the related Dreamtime story and convey the local knowledge, places and traditions that the painting illustrates.
Making the world more aware of their culture through selling art with its design story is the main motivation behind Aboriginal artists’ work.
In this exhibition, the artists’ design stories are presented on the labels for each work. In this way, the exhibition - both through paintings and texts - is speaking for the Aboriginal artists.
Aboriginal artists paint different designs, one of them being dreamtime stories. Each time an Aboriginal artist paints the Dreamtime stories of their kinship group, they express their personal spirituality and their connection to the land and their ancestors. These designs illustrate stories describing the ancestral creation of places, animals, birds, plants and humans.
The design stories can also have a moral message, reminding people of the importance of following the Eternal Law created by the ancestors at the beginning of the Dreamtime. Some Dreamtime stories are so sacred that their depictions cannot be seen by (or sold to) outsiders.
Bush Tucker Designs
Paintings of bush tucker – traditional Aboriginal food – is another common theme of Aboriginal art. A thorough knowledge of fishing, hunting and food gathering used to be vital for survival in the bush. Although Aborigines are no longer dependent on bush tucker, hunting and gathering remain an important part of Aboriginal life.
These days, bush trips are joyful events involving cars filled with eager participants, who gather bush food until sundown. There then follows a bush tucker meal cooked over an open fire, during which stories are told.
Although the year in Northern Australia is primarily divided into dry and wet seasons, the Aborigines distinguish between as many as seven seasons in which different types of food are gathered, hunted and fished. The start of each season is detected by observing signs in nature.
Aborigines see it as important to remember and pass on the traditional knowledge of seasonal signs, hunting and gathering techniques, and the methods of preparing food in the bush. This knowledge has always been passed on to following generations during bush trips, but is now also conveyed through art based on bush tucker designs.
Bush tucker designs communicate the everyday activities, life experience, and local knowledge of the Aboriginal artists.
Aboriginal artists also use designs illustrating traditional customs, some of which are still practised but many of which only survive in people’s memories. These designs show rituals performed for births, deaths or the transition from childhood to adulthood. The content and meaning of these rituals and customs is now communicated through art, which enables Aborigines to retain memories of old rituals, and gives non-Aborigines an insight into traditions and values that continue to be an important part of Aboriginal culture.
In each design, the artists are sharing their life world with the art audience.