Bold patterned artworks that tell a story: The colours and lines of Aboriginal art – Rajasthan & Australia

Neena Bhandari, The Hindu, October 15, 2016 | To read the full article, click here >>

The colours and lines of Aboriginal art in Australia’s outback take the author back to the deserts of her birthplace in Rajasthan

In the grainy red sand, Anangu Aboriginal artist Sarah Dalby, 42, glides her fingers to draw a collection of symbols to demonstrate how the Aborigines have been passing knowledge about their land, culture and traditions from one generation to the next. It is a warm spring afternoon in Yulara, the resort town in Australia’s Red Centre desert, and I am in the town square for a 90-minute Maruku Arts dot painting workshop. […]

Symbolism, manifest in Aboriginal paintings, plays an important role in illustrating the Anangu’s (Aboriginal people from the western and central deserts of Australia) connectedness to the land and the life it supports. The bold patterned artworks tell a story, mostly an interpretation of Tjukurpa (the law and stories of ancestors) that the Aborigines have followed for more than 40,000 years, making this the oldest continuing culture in the world.

As Dalby carefully carves the symbols, the workshop coordinator Saha Joses explains their significance and translates the words from Pitjatjantjara, the Anangu language. Minyma (women) traditionally had piti (wooden bowl) in which they carried their babies and used the wana (digging stick) to protect themselves and collect mai wiru (bush tucker) such as kampurarpa (bush tomatoes), arnguli (plum), mangata (quandong), tjala (honey ants) and maku (witchetty grubs — the larvae of the Cossid Moth). Wati (men) carried a kali (boomerang), kulata (spears), miru (spear thrower), tjutinypa (club) to hunt malu (kangaroo), kalaya (emu) and other fauna.

Dalby’s eyes sparkle with approval. Painting workshops such as this help bridge cultural and language barriers. […]

I read and re-read the sheet of Aboriginal graphic symbols with their meanings and scan the palette of acrylic paints (originally, the Aborigines sourced colours from local materials), easels, brushes and thin pencil-sized sticks with a flattened tip, which we are told, can be used to paint the dots. My thoughts travel back in time to the Thar desert in Rajasthan. Bold reds, blacks and yellows added a magical charm to the barren landscape of my birth. I begin with a tali (sand dune), the most prominent feature of any desert, gradually trying to capture the magic and mystery, while losing myself in the intoxicating charm of the red earth. […]

Dalby is one of 800 artists who form the collective Maruku Arts, owned and operated by the Anangu. It endeavours to keep their culture alive for future generations and provides an important form of income for artists like Dalby living in remote communities.[…]

Neena Bhandari, Sydney-based journalist, is president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Association (Australia & South Pacific).

Source: Neena Bhandari uses Australian aboriginal art to travel back in time and space – The Hindu
Address: http://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/neena-bhandari-uses-australian-aboriginal-art-to-travel-back-in-time-and-space/article9219895.ece?homepage=true
Date Visited: Sat Nov 26 2016 13:29:02 GMT+0100 (CET)

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