Understanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art

09 November 2020
Artist Stories

We would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we operate in
Australia, and pay our respects to Elders past and present.

Art is a vitally important and powerful medium for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to share stories, preserve history, and connect as people. On this page, we want to build and contribute what resources we can to increasing the body of education, resources, and information available that both support artists, as well as help everyone learn, understand, and appreciate the richness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.

Please note! This is a living resource that we’ll continue to evolve over time. If there’s something you would like to add to our growing library of resources, please reach out to [email protected]

NAIDOC Week 2020

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. You can check what events are available in your region here.

A primer on appreciating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art

If you’re looking for a primer on appreciating Aboriginal art, Alexandra Calamel shares with us some insightful and thought-provoking perspectives on where to get started. She talks about key techniques, regional differences, as well as where to go to get more information.

Below, we also have also featured some of the works we’ve had the privilege of sharing in recent times, along with their stories.

“Even though people don’t know what dots is all about, there is a movement within dots. It will tell a story and sometimes people will just sit there or stand there and just look patiently that in itself is going within”.

Additional resources

Featured Aboriginal artists

Showing some of the Aboriginal artists who signed up with us and never fails to upload amazing artworks.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art is centred on storytelling so please take time to read the story behind their artworks. Let us all appreciate the meaningful beauty of indigenous art. You can also check out their profiles for more.

Alexandra Calamel

Harmony With The Land Spirit
Harmony With The River Spirit

Harmony With The Land Spirit. This mixed medium artwork with sand depicts how the land through the cycles of the seasons gives back to many tribes where they reside on the land. The green pathways of the desert region ready for gathering and sharing within their community. Indigenous Australian custodians lived in harmony with nature and the spirit of the land gave back to them in many different ways in every season of harvest.

Harmony With The River Spirit. This mix medium art piece with sand depicts the indigenous people living by the rivers and water ways and their gathering within the water’s edge. There are areas by the sea shores and rivers where tribes stack up stones within the water edge or river to trap fish for the community. The men would create rows of stones with gaps in-between like a labyrinth when the sea is high tide or the river swells. The fish would be coming closer to the shore with the tides and when the tides resides they will be trapped behind to be picked up by the gatherers. Indigenous Australian custodians lived in harmony with nature and the spirit of the land gave back to them in many different ways in every season with the elements of the land.

Baluk Artists

In the Presence of Aboriginality
Georges River

In the Presence of Aboriginality. In the presence of cultural ABORIGINALITY. I look to the ground, feeling Mother Earth beneath my bare feet and, in visualize soil stratifications of thousands of years of local and contemporary aboriginal tribal history. I smell the freshness of the Gorges river and its lured connection - its meaning of existence dreamtime spirituality I hear the local birdlife squawk dancing in the sky above performing an aerial corrobboree. I think to myself this is Liverpool’s history showing to me, in a disguise what reconciliation between nature and its people shared could be. If only we all took the time to use our senses - LISTENED – SMELL – FEEL – TASTE – and – SEE.

Georges River. (Gulaga River in Aboriginal Language)
Georges River you have looked after my people for thousands of centuries, and have provided for these peoples in your rich abundancy.
You have been home for the Gandangara people of greater South Western Sydney, The Darug, The Gadidgal and Dharawal, The Cabrogal, and Tharawal Aboriginal people in your custodian.
Georges River you are now home to many tribes of many different nationalities and still flow with your ancient cultural majesty.
Georges River please let me tell you we still care for your beauty and natural harmony and it is with our oath, our honour, and modern-day responsibility to protect you for without your watery lifeblood we would not be.

It was said that icons and/or symbols are used in their artworks in order to convey the significant cultural events and stories of Aboriginal people up until today. They pass along their stories to preserve their culture and so their symbols (an alternative way to write down their stories) shows their knowledge of the land, events and beliefs of the Aboriginal people.