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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: SOSE/HSIE
Year: 9-10
Strand: Culture
Theme: Indigenous Work

Key Concepts

Dreaming; Culture; Art; Change and continuity

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Studies of society and environment, Culture
NSW:7-10 History Stage 4 Topic 3
NT:Social systems and structures, Band 5: Soc5.2, 5+.2
Qld:1-10 Studies of society and environment, Culture and identity CI5.1
SA:Societies and culture 5.8, 5.9
Tas:Social responsibility — Understanding the past and creating preferred futures
Vic:7-10 History Level 4: SOHI 0401
WA:Society and Environment, Culture

Context / Background Information

There are several different major Aboriginal art styles, including X-Ray and cross-hatching, and the one seen in this video clip, 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 teacher Geoffrey Bardon encouraged the Papunya 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. What does the video clip show?
  2. What are the messages of the video clip?
  3. What is this artist’s aim or purpose in creating the painting?
  4. What is its meaning to him, and to others?
  5. How does it reflect nature?
  6. Why is it so important to the artist that his culture is passed on in this way?

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Invite an Indigenous artist, or, if one is not available, an Aboriginal gallery owner to class to show and discuss Indigenous art.
  2. Indigenous culture has developed over thousands of years in a particular environment. Discuss the difficulties and problems that are created for traditional culture in a modern world.
  3. We tend to refer to Aboriginal culture as the ‘Dreaming’. Collect a number of definitions of this term. Which is most satisfactory?

Modules That Use This Clip

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