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Australian Aboriginal Art - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Australian Aboriginal Art Who are the Aborigines? Aborigine means “native” Original people of Australia Traveled in canoes from SE Asia Lived there at least 40,000 years as the only people Developed unique beliefs about creation Survived as hunters and observers

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Who are the Aborigines?

  • Aborigine means “native”
  • Original people of Australia
  • Traveled in canoes from SE Asia
  • Lived there at least 40,000 years as the only people
  • Developed unique beliefs about creation
  • Survived as hunters and observers
  • Many died from disease or starved when their land was taken from them by the Europeans in the 1770s

What is Aboriginal Art?

  • Last traditional art form to be appreciated
  • To understand Aboriginal Art we first need to learn about Dreamtime
  • Dreamtime refers to their beliefs of how the land and its people were created
  • Believed supernatural beings with magical powers created the land’s features, animals and plants during dreamtime
  • Art is a way to stay in touch with their ancestry and be a part of the natural world

Dreamtime Stories

  • Passed down through generations by word of mouth
  • Artworks depict deep meaning told through dreamtime stories
  • Basis of value and belief system, affects their interaction with the land and animals
  • Land is sacred because it contains their heritage, history, and powerful ancestors or spirits

In Aboriginal culture everyone is an artist because everyone participates in activities such as dancing, singing, body decoration, sand drawing and weaving baskets.


How did Aboriginals create art?

  • Unique subject matter and style
  • Known for their rock paintings, bark paintings, sand (or dot paintings), and body decoration
  • Brushes made from bark, plant fibers, twigs, hair or feathers
  • Also used fingers or sticks to paint
  • Used natural ochers (minerals) or clay to make red, yellow, and white paint
  • Black was made from charcoal

Aboriginal Rock Art

  • Longest continuously practiced artistic tradition in the world.
  • Ubirr, located in North Australia, has very impressive rock paintings.

"One old man in Arnhem Land remembered being carried as a child on his father's shoulders as his father climbed up a log leaning against a rock wall. His father then sprayed his hand with red ochre against the rock, leaving a stencil he could still recognize many years later. The main function of the stencils was to record people's presence and association with a site."


Bark Painting

  • Tradition for thousands of years
  • Bark is cut into a rectangle, after the wet season, when it’s soft
  • Placed on warm coals, pressed flat with weights and sticks tied to both ends with string
  • Painted with natural pigments mixed with a natural fixative: sticky gum from trees
  • Style is similar to rock paintings and illustrates stories
  • Painted on bark for ceremonies, burials, and everyday objects such as baskets and belts

Dot Painting

  • Traditional dot paintings were made in sand
  • Contemporary dot paintings are on canvas with acrylic paint
  • Depict a story using Aboriginal symbols
  • When you understand the symbols it gives a whole new meaning to a dot painting

Aboriginals used symbols to represent natural surroundings.

  • They are shown as tracks left in the ground and look like they are seen from a plane.
  • Represent recent tracks left by animals or tracks made in the past by ancestors.

Thunder & Lightening


Kangaroo tracks & tail


Goanna (lizard) dragging tail, footprints on side


Women’s Ceremony


Frogs (black)

Water holes (blue)

Men Hunting


2nd Grade Objectives:

  • Learn how dreamtime beliefs and the Australian landscape inspired the creation of Aboriginal artwork.
  • Create an interesting way to use your space through size, placement, overlapping, use of a border or background.
  • Illustrate movement using the technique of Aboriginal dot painting.
  • Discuss the purpose of art in Aboriginal culture.

X-Ray Style Painting

  • Developed around 2000 B.C.
  • Found in shallow caves or rock shelters particularly in Western and Northern Australia
  • Simple exterior animal shapes that depict internal organs, bone structure (ribs, back bone), or baby animal inside
  • Created by painting the animal’s silhouette in white and using red or yellow for the inside
  • Contemporary artists continue to paint in X-Ray tradition

3rd Grade Objectives:

  • Draw an Aboriginal animal of your choice in the X-Ray style using anatomy resources.
  • Vary the value (lightness and darkness) of at least one color when you paint your X-Ray drawing.
  • Create an area of emphasis (center or focus) in your artwork using size, color, and line.
  • Associate which artworks from the Aboriginal culture were done in the X-Ray style.

Body Decoration

  • Traditional practice for ceremonies
  • Includes scarring, smeared clay or ochres on face, wearing ornaments and headdress
  • Deep spiritual significance
  • Geometric designs
  • Use respected patterns of an ancestor to take on their living appearance
  • Designs may also reflect their role in the family or important role in their community

Student Objectives for 4th Grade:

  • Produce an exaggerated close-up portrait of yourself inspired by the tradition of body painting.
  • Discuss how Aboriginal art reflects the relationship between artists and their beliefs and values.
  • Analyze how Aboriginal art serves a function (or purpose) in their culture.

Student Examples:


Today’s Objectives:

  • Dip and dot for rich color
  • Dot over the entire work, space dots clear and consistent
  • Paint black areas for the eye to rest
  • Each line or shape should have only one color, unless it’s a pattern
  • Try to keep colors balanced and expressive

Student Examples:


What medium is this an example of?

  • What symbol do you see? What do you think it represents?
  • How is this artwork related to the building behind it?


  • Carol, Finley. Aboriginal Art of Australia. Lerner Publications Company, Minneapolis: 1999.
  • Petersen, David. Australia. Children’s Press, New York: 1998.