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What is the Dreamtime?


The Dreamtime, or “The Dreaming,” forms the spiritual framework of Aboriginal culture, encompassing the creation myths and fundamental laws that govern the universe according to Indigenous Australian beliefs. Through the representation of these stories, Aboriginal art not only preserves the cultural heritage but also actively engages with and educates both Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences about the rich spiritual life of Australia’s first peoples.

article-imageSeven Sisters Dreaming in Blue and Red by
article-imageGabriella Possum Nungurrayi

Role of Dreamtime in Aboriginal Art


Dreamtime stories are central to the identity and spirituality of Aboriginal communities. They describe the travels and actions of ancestral spirits who shaped the land, created life, and established societal rules. These stories are not static myths but are considered living and ongoing, having relevance in the present day as much as they did in the past.



Artistic Techniques and Symbolism


Artists use various traditional methods to depict Dreamtime stories, including painting, carving, weaving, and sculpture. The choice of colours, symbols, and materials all serve to enhance the narrative being told:


Symbolic Use of Colour: Colours in Aboriginal art are often derived from natural sources and carry symbolic meanings. White might represent the sky or spirituality, red the earth or blood, and yellow the sun or desert.


Iconography: Specific symbols are used to represent elements within Dreamtime stories. For example, serpents may represent the Rainbow Serpent, a major ancestral being. Circles can denote meeting places or waterholes created by these spirits.


Landscapes and Maps: Many Dreamtime paintings are abstract maps of landscapes showing paths travelled by ancestors, locations of significant events, or boundaries between tribal lands.


Functions of Dreamtime Art


Educational Role: For young Indigenous people, these artworks serve as an important educational tool, teaching them about their cultural heritage, moral laws, and their roles within the community.


Cultural Preservation: By continuously creating art that illustrates Dreamtime stories, Aboriginal artists ensure the preservation and transmission of their culture and history, keeping the stories alive for new generations and maintaining the cultural continuity.


Spiritual Connection and Healing: Dreamtime art is not only a narrative but also a spiritual practice that can offer healing and connection to those who engage with it, whether through its creation or observation.


article-imageThe dreaming is hard to represent in an image besides artists artworks. Here is how AI attempts to explain it in an image.

Contemporary Relevance and Adaptation


In contemporary settings, Aboriginal artists have adapted traditional techniques to new mediums, such as digital art, film, and photography, to continue telling Dreamtime stories. These adaptations help bridge the gap between traditional Aboriginal culture and modern life, ensuring that the stories remain relevant to younger generations and accessible to a global audience.

The Dreaming is central to everything


The representation of Dreamtime stories in Aboriginal art is a vibrant testament to the enduring power of these ancient narratives. It underscores the dynamic and living nature of Aboriginal culture, where art acts as a conduit between the ancestral past and the contemporary world.

Understanding these visual narratives offers unique insights into the Aboriginal worldview, revealing a profound connection between the people, their ancestors, and the environment that sustains them.

This ongoing artistic tradition not only enriches Australian culture but also contributes to a broader understanding of human connection to the spiritual and natural worlds.

article-imageTwo depictions of the dreaming "Seven Sisters" by two artists
article-imageAlma Nungarrayi Granites & Rex Sultan

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