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1. Investigate issues in artistic practice in relation to contemporary and historical contexts
2 Evaluate the integrity of diverse sources of information, compare and contrast differing cultural perspectives in historical and contemporary visual culture
3 Demonstrate a sound knowledge of issues concerning contemporary Aboriginal Australian art through written critique

The Connection of Aboriginal Culture and their impact on Land

The essay discusses the reflection of identity in the artworks of the aboriginal artists. The indigenous art of Australia records the collaboration and representation of the struggle of people to sustain their identity throughout the Australian history. Australian aboriginal art includes works in wide range of media starting from leaves, rock carvings wood carvings, sand painting, ceremonial clothing and sculpting (Nilson et al. 2015). These modern aboriginal artworks date back to the post-colonial era but the actual connection between the identity of the indigenous people and the Australian art has been formed over thousands of years. Since then, the aboriginal artists have been considering the media of visual art as a dominant tool to reflect their identity in the contemporary society (Lindeman et al. 2017). 

In this modern era, representing art places huge credence on the concept of individualism. The artists are identifying numerous situations or subjects to convey their unique culture which is interrelated with their personal selves. The aboriginal artists are not exceptional where they are pushed to distil various social, political and psychological changes affecting their ethnicity and convey these factors in their own creation (Heckenberg 2017). Aboriginal artists like Dorothy Napangardi and Judy Watson frequently create their artworks which reflect their own cultural experiences. In most of the cases these are related to the events taken place in the society after the intervention of the western culture. From the artworks of these artists implicitly reflect the concept of cultural hegemony. In response to these cultural dominances the aboriginal artists have sought to create their distinctive identifies in art where they have given voice to their people and culture (Smith et al. 2015).

In one of the most prominent art galleries of Australia namely the Queensland Gallery arranges exhibitions associated with aboriginal art and culture. These examine the identity of the Indigenous Australians, present their opinions on politics, history, personal experiences as well as their connections to their native land (Lathouras et al 2017). The aboriginal artworks minutely address those things that are quite common and people think that they know those things but actually they will find a new perspective or view looking through a different pair of eyes. 


In the contemporary Australian aboriginal artworks, one can easily find the various aspects of indigenous history as well as expressions. This includes their nativity combined with newfound identities as well as their intervention with the international cultures (Caruana 2015). Over the past three decades these are the perspectives dominating the Australian aboriginal art. For this reason, there has been a wide acceptance of the indigenous artworks. This is due to fact that their artworks represent their aboriginal ancestral traditions and the core identity which can never be found elsewhere than Australia. These are paired with the explicit exploration of the vitality of native people in the history of Australia and expressed through the photographs, sculptures, illustrations and painting of the artists with aboriginal background.

Representation of struggle through Artworks

Beside these, the attitudes that the artworks of the contemporary or the traditional artists reveal, are the reflection of the colonial encounters. It was the most important factor which gave birth of the issue of identity crisis in the minds of the indigenous individuals. The treatment that they had received from these outsiders actually affected the psychology of the native Australians. The pathetic attempt to incorporate the natives into the white society was actually the chief manipulative factor to the growing issue of existence. Identity is one of the profound notion in the aboriginal art which is not only based on the process of finding one’s own place in the society completely but also expressing the voice of the present and past circumstances. The present artworks reveal these voices of the artists and create situations where others convey their experiences through telling stories of their concurrent lives.

The basic theme of the Australian aboriginal arts is the connection of the aboriginal culture and their impact on their land with which most of the Australians can connect. It has been proved to be the crucial approach to disclose their past histories and their history combines with their religious beliefs and cultural frameworks. The traditional aboriginal art always bears a mythological undertone which is not very far from the identity of the native people of Australia. Many of the works by the contemporary as well as traditional aboriginal artists, reflect their styles of worship and totem representation. None of the traditional paintings are devoid of the spiritual meaning. Not only in the painting, but all forms of art works by the indigenous Australians echo their core message that they belong to the people, all the people.

The artworks of Judy Watson represent her aboriginal background exceptionally. One can easily find the excess of aboriginal symbols in her every work. Her series Blood language she reflects the life of dispossessed native Australians with whom she shares her family history as well as heritage. The paintings of Judy Watson are intense yet sublime in their physicality. Blood language is a beautifully illustrated pictorial exploration of her aboriginal identity. The list of themes include water, skin, dust, poison ochre, bones, blood and driftnet which indicate the wide array of natural as well as cultural practices of the aboriginal people (Fisher and Laura 2016). 

The intensity and the subjects of her choice clearly exposes the traces of her aboriginal background, isolation, existential threats and politics. Her works denote aboriginal struggle due to the cultural domination of the substantially powerful culture over their existence. Through her artworks Judy expresses her strong indigenous identity promoting the eternal concept of political relation between the natives and the white Australians. In her painting namely Memory Bones, published in 2007, is one of the major visually stimulating piece of art. It has detailed both her personal as well as cross cultural perspectives under theme of lost identity. 

Distinctive Identities and Cultural hegemony


It is her personal experiences that act as the touchstone of all her works and transform them as unique yet sophisticated by allowing the audiences to immerse. As mentioned before, the identity of the aboriginal Australians largely revolves round their history of struggle. Judy Watson in her paintings has justly represented the tragic treatment of the natives in the local community prisons. The atrocious events of the indigenous history are embodied through the red blood stain on her canvas. Maltreatment and miscomprehension by the whites to the Aborigines have become the core subject of many other aboriginal artists.

The message that these artists wanted to convey through their works have been successfully touched the heart of the audience irrespective of aboriginal or other Australians. These artworks are basically reflection of the perspectives of the black Australians which provides vision into the imperceptible connection of land with the spirit of the natives, their history as well as identity (Fisher, Laura, and Gay 2016). The multiculturalism is one of the major factors which is constantly being questioned in the works of these contemporary artists. This have contributed in her current social discourse in addition to her strong knowledge, opinion and attitude (Day 2014).

These issues can also be seen in the works of Dorothy Napangardi who was one of the 3000 Warlpiri tribes. Her minimal schooling helped her experiencing the historic dream of the aborigines in her land (Kubota 2016). The earliest works of Dorothy identify the colourful floral patterns that depicted the growth of the flowers only found in her lands. All her works appeared to be semi-naturalistic in their depictions. The mythical elements in the aboriginal artworks mentioned before can be found abundantly in the works of this particular artist. Her works represent the origins and journey of her ancestral histories for centuries.

Dorothy Napangardi is renowned for the representation of the life of women in her community. Their dance postures, their digging sticks all are detailed in her works (Sloggett 2015). These paintings of Dorothy evoke a complex narrative that denotes the women dancing and moving in their long journeys. Beside this, her Karntakurlangu Jukurrpa which means inland sea, is a prominent subject to deal with. She depicts nature from an aboriginal perspective which bears no similarity with that of the white Australian. The painting prove that her tribe possess the insight and power to see the nature that nobody can imitate and after domination also, it is impossible to snatch their identity (Murphy 2016). Karlangu,  the digging sticks is inseparable from the identity of her community as it is the cultural icon that she presents in her paintings. Yuparli the bush banana can be seen to have trivial connotation but it presents the artist’s desire to listen to the nature. In the Women’s Dreaming, Dorothy recollects the idea of sustenance and balancing the lifestyle as a Warlpiri. The way she has expressed herself, a nuanced conception of identity in contrast to the modern world, has never reached the international stage so imperatively as well as deeply. 

Contemporary Aboriginal Artworks and Mythological undertone


The concept of identity is implicit in the works of the aboriginal artists as they differentiated their cultures as well as social bonding contrasting the civilised white world (Fisher 2016). These are recognised to be unique as well as separate because to them, they possess the nature including all the flora fauna growing in their world which are so valuable to stand out of the reach of knowledge or learning process of the artificial world of technology. Hence these are inimitable. It is the place where the core difference between their world lies. Paradoxically, the capability to identify one’s own self through the contemporary artwork is difficult but these artists have successfully guided his audience to see the world from different viewpoints (Cheshire, Barbara and Ryan 2016). These artworks of the aboriginal artists have proved to be instrumental in providing the platform from where the audience can understand as well as transcend the limitations among various cultures.

Therefore, it can be concluded that the identity crisis of the aboriginals that prevails in their minds, is appropriately conveyed through the artworks of eminent aboriginal writers. The paintings of the aboriginal artists have successfully created very idiosyncratic identities of the Australian aborigines. These arts are true representatives of their native culture which give the dominated people a voice to proclaim their existence. To state more particularly, the issue of identity of the aboriginal people in Australia, is being challenged through the contemporary art.  This allows the audiences to see at the history of the land with an altered perspective where there is clear interrelation between the dominants and the dominated. The ideology where the whites are uprooting the aboriginal self from the indigenous, these paintings are clear protest advocating the unimportance of modern western culture to be followed to sustain. These paintings also encourage the audience to re-consider their own lives as well as attitudes, thus creating change in the land that bring all the Australians together. 

References:

Caruana, Wally. 2015. Aboriginal Art. London: Thames & Hudson.

Cheshire, Barbara, and Ryan Daniel. "Spirituality in Place: Capturing the Essence of North Queensland through Painting." eTropic: electronic journal of studies in the tropics15, no. 1 (2016).

Day, Daniel. "The Art Market down under: A Case Study of Australian Aboriginal Art Market Regulation and US Art Market Implication." Cardozo J. Int'l & Comp. L. 23 (2014): 133.

Fisher, Laura, and Gay McDonald. "From fluent to Culture Warriors: Curatorial trajectories for Indigenous Australian art overseas." Media International Australia 158, no. 1 (2016): 69-79.

Fisher, Laura. Aboriginal Art and Australian Society: Hope and Disenchantment. Vol. 1. Anthem Press, 2016.

Fisher, Sibyl. "fluent in Venice: curating Australian aboriginal art beyond the ‘Urban/Desert’paradigm." Interventions 17, no. 6 (2015): 802-813.

Heckenberg, Robyn. "To tread lightly: Teaching aboriginal and torres strait islander art and representation in a regional university." australian art education 38, no. 2 (2017): 291.

Kubota, Sachiko. "Innovation of Paintings and Its Transmission: Case Studies from Aboriginal Art in Australia." In Social Learning and Innovation in Contemporary Hunter-Gatherers, pp. 229-234. Springer, Tokyo, 2016.

Lathouras, Athena, and Dyann Ross. "Benarrawa Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Solidarity Group: working to reduce the deleterious effects of racism through structural community development." Community Organising Against Racism:'Race', Ethnicity and Community Development (2017): 215.

Lindeman, Melissa, Paulene Mackell, Xiaoping Lin, Annie Farthing, Heather Jensen, Maree Meredith, and Betty Haralambous. "Role of art centres for Aboriginal Australians living with dementia in remote communities." Australasian journal on ageing 36, no. 2 (2017): 128-133.

Murphy, Julian R. "What we don't talk about when we talk about Aboriginal art." Going Down Swinging 37 (2016): 82.

Nilson, C., G. Kearing, C. Fetherston, and P. Morrison. "Art from the heart: Using art narrative to describe the experiences of a health promotion program in an Australian aboriginal community." International Journal of Arts, Theory and History10, no. 3 (2015): 13-32.

Sloggett, Robyn. "‘Has Aboriginal art a future?’Leonhard Adam’s 1944 essay and the development of the Australian Aboriginal art market." International Journal of Cultural Studies18, no. 2 (2015): 167-183.

Smith, Janie Dade, Shannon Springer, John Togno, Mary Martin, Bradley Murphy, and Christina Wolfe. "Developing a cultural immersion approach to teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and culture." LIME Good Practice Case Studies Volume 3 (2015): 39.

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