Sunday, 8 November 2015

Aboriginal Rock Art

A naturalistic wallaby.
The Aboriginal rock paintings in various caves and rock overhangs in the Kakadu National Park are some of the best in Australia. Kakadu, despite its remote location, is famous enough to be relatively easy to get to and the rock paintings on fairly easy walking trails. The creation of the paintings is a sacred act in Aboriginal culture, so it is a great privilege to be able to view them here.

An x-ray style wallaby.
These particular paintings are at a site widely referred to as Nourlangie, but strictly speaking this place is called Anbangbang. They are a mixture of x-ray and naturalistic styles and include spirit figures and prey animals. The pigments are naturally occuring local iron or manganese rich clay and kaolin made into powdered ochres and mixed with water. Brushes are made from hair, feathers, fibrous bark and other plant materials. The paintings in the park date back 20 000 years, but the main images in these photos were painted in 1964. Because the act of painting is more significant than the painting itself many images are overlaid with completely different paintings done at a later date. Others are faithfully refreshed as required by local Aboriginals who have the traditional right to do so (usually the right is handed down through kinship). Paintings serve to record events, ensure animal abundance and educate children.

Lightning Man (on the right, holding an arc) and other Creation Ancestors.
These paintings have many levels of understanding and stories attached to them. As a visitor you are told the 'public' level, but Aboriginal elders would know other stories too. The more knowledge you have about the message the images convey, the more responsibility you have within the culture they belong to.

No comments:

Post a comment