An overview of the art and religion of the Aborigines in Australia

Hello readers, this week I was challenged to write a blog post on the art and religion of the Aborigines in Australia as part of the blog challenge here at wuhstry. Since I don’t really look at religious or art history, this was a completely different area of the past for me to look at. Nevertheless, the art and religion of the Aborigines in Australia proved to be an interesting area of history to explore and I hope you enjoy the following blog post.

Religion or belief system

Firstly I will discuss the religion or spiritual beliefs of the Aborigines of Australia. The Aborigines of Australia believe in a number of different gods or deities and depending on what part of Australia you’re researching, there are different deities that are linked to certain tribes and regions. Each deity is believed to have a different role in the world and its creation, though in some cases there is overlap in the different tribal beliefs. The deities are also believed to be ancestral beings, linking past and present generations to the Creation period and the deities that formed the world. These ancestral beings are part of the everyday beliefs and actions with which animals and people as descendents of the original creators of the world would interact to ensure spiritual and environmental harmony. Therefore, all life is sacred and important to the Aborigines and their religion is heavily tied to the environment and the world around them.

The Creation Period or Dreamtime refers to a time when the ancestral beings created the worlds landscape’s such as the rivers and mountains and the animals of the world. During this period the ancestors came to Earth in human form though many also took animal form and began moulding the earth for their descendants to live. One such deity in animal form is the Rainbow Serpent who created the landscapes, rivers and animals. The Rainbow Serpent is also believed to have created the sun, the fire and all the colours. The Rainbow Serpent was the protector of the land, its people and the source of all life as well as a destructive force that could cause flooding if it was not respected. The Aborigines also believe that their dreams are images of the Creation Period in their memory that have been passed down by their ancestors. The Dreamtime stories form many of the Aborigines laws and social rules in their respected societies as they served as moral tales that encouraged noble and good behaviour of both adults and children.

Art

Aborigine art was also an important part of life as it connected the past and present, the people and the land, and the supernatural and natural. Religion and spiritual ceremonies were major inspiration for much of the cave and rock art that appears across Australia and like their spiritual beliefs; there was a huge variety according to the region and time period. Painted and carved art fits into two categories; naturalistic and non-naturalistic though they can also be categorised into figurative and non-figurative types as well. For the most part naturalistic art can be recognised as images where a figure of a person or an animal can easily be seen. Kakadu art is an example of naturalistic art and can be seen in the Kakadu National Park in northern Australia. On the other hand, the non-naturalistic art form appears to be more abstract with various different styles and geometric patterns. As a result there are many interpretations of the art form by those observing the images. These images are sacred sites to all Aborigines who live in Australia and therefore reflect their spiritual and religious ideals as part of natural and supernatural world.

The Aborigines used mainly ochre to paint their rock and cave art which provided an earthly variety of colours to use. The Aborigines would break the ochre rocks down into powder and then would mix it with a liquid to create the paint. Fine clay and coal would also be used by the Aborigines to create their images and paintings. Modern artists have also added fine paintbrushes and acrylic paint to the list of artistic tools though traditional tools and paints are also still used. Anything from branches used as paint brushes and stenches to feathers could be used to create the desired art style as all the resources that they needed were in the landscape around them.

To conclude, the religion and art styles of the Aborigines of Australia are tied to both the spiritual and natural world in which the Aborigines live. The ancestors of the Aborigines also fulfil a major role in the religion as they linked multiple generations together and created a spiritual connection between the past and the present. The art forms were also inspired by their religious beliefs and help bring the spiritual and natural worlds to life right the way across Australia. This blog post has turned out to be a very interesting subject to research and the art work is amazing in both its design and character. Thanks for reading.

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