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About the Video Clip:

Video Clip Synopsis:
Indigenous art is like topographic mapping of land and culture. Michael Nelson Tjakamarra works at painting concentric circles which represent sacred sites.

2min 1sec

Dreamings, Through Indigenous Art is an excerpt from the film Dreamings - The Art of Aboriginal Australia (30 mins), produced in 1988.



Dreamings - The Art of Aboriginal Australia: The art of Aboriginal Australia is celebrated in Dreamings as we journey into the sacred heartland of Australia to see traditional artists at work. The artists talk of their work, its association with the land and its spiritual connection with their people, the animals and plants. The film explores the meanings behind the works, from acrylic dot paintings of the Central Desert to cross-hatched bark paintings and burial poles of northern Australia, as it allows the viewer access to the oldest continuous art tradition in the world.

Dreamings - The Art of Aboriginal Australia is a Film Australia National Interest Program.

Study Module

Curriculum Focus: English
Year: 7-8
Strand: Culture
Theme: Indigenous Work

Key Concepts

Dreaming; Culture; Art; Change and continuity

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Everyday texts – Language: Contextual understanding
NSW:(2003 Syllabus) Stage 4 Outcome 4, Outcome 10
NT:R/V 4.1 – 4.3
Qld:Cu 5.2
SA:Texts and contexts 4.3
Tas:Communicating – Being literate, Standard 4
Vic:Reading – Texts 5.7
WA:Understanding Language
Attitudes, values and beliefs

Context / Background Information

There are several different major Aboriginal art styles, including X-Ray and cross-hatching, and the one seen in this film, the dot style from Central Australia.

Aboriginal art was traditionally created on bodies, in the dirt, on trees or artefacts, and on rocks. In the 1970s school teacher Geoffrey Bardon encouraged the Papunya Tula people of Central Australia to use acrylic paint on canvas, boards and cloth, which triggered an explosion of traditional and new Indigenous art and an increasing respect for and recognition of it among non-Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal art works reflect culture and environment and are often created as a co-operative work.

Dreaming stories tell about how and when the earth, as Aboriginal people know it, was made. Dreaming stories are passed from one generation to the next through songs, dances and art.

Discussion Pointers

  1. Think about paintings. Why do people do them? What is their purpose? What are they trying to communicate? What does the viewer need to know to understand it?
  2. What does the video clip show?
  3. What are the messages of the video clip?
  4. What is the artist’s aim or purpose in creating the painting?
  5. What is its meaning to him and to others?
  6. How does it reflect nature?
  7. Why is it so important to this artist that his culture is passed on in this way?

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Aboriginal paintings are not all the same style. Research to find at least three different styles — including dot style, and X-Ray style. Prepare a very brief summary of the differences and the similarities.
  2. Aboriginal art uses symbols to express ideas, feelings and attitudes. Research to find the meaning of some of the common symbols used in Aboriginal art — for example, the U shape in dot style art.
  3. There are many symbols also used in modern life. Find some of these in your own school. Discuss them and decide what are the characteristics of a good symbol.
  4. The video clip stresses that painting is a way of maintaining and spreading Aboriginal culture. Think about your culture. Does it change? How is it passed on to you? Consider such means of spread as film, music, clothes, food, TV, books, magazines. What are the most powerful means of passing on culture in your life?

Modules That Use This Clip

English Year 7-8, The Arts Year 7-8, SOSE/HSIE Year 9-10