The longest surviving continuous culture on the planet.
50,000-years and counting.
Aboriginal or Indigenous Australians have long used art in its many forms for spiritual and cultural storytelling. Thought to be the world’s oldest continuous culture extending back around 50,000 years, this incredible ability to survive over time began with the ancient stories of Creation: The Dreaming or Jukurrpa. From a prehistoric period when great Ancestral Spirits shaped the land and created life, these stories describe a belief system and way of life that define Australia’s First Nations people.
While Jukurrpa shapes Aboriginals’ spiritually, morally and socially, it is their deep relationship with the land where all is sacred that has sustained their life and culture for so many millennia. “We cultivated our land, but in a way different from the white man.” says Tom Dystra, “We endeavoured to live with the land; they seemed to live off it. I was taught to preserve, never to destroy.”
Jukurrpa stories have long been kept private in secret rituals, rock and bark painting, carvings, sculpture and body painting and performed in songs and dances. This is Indigenous Australia’s heritage.
As Australian Aboriginal peoples have no written language – though at one point before British colonization in 1788 there were hundreds of different languages and dialects spoken – storytelling was expressed in the form of pictures and symbols.
It was not until the 1970s when the desert community of Papunya Tula first painted these images on canvas that the Contemporary Aboriginal Art Movement was born. Spreading to various regions throughout Australia, different styles emerged with the dot painting technique created to conceal ceremonial secrets. Even today artists need permission from community elders to paint a particular story. In remote communities, rural townships and capital cities, Indigenous Australians retain their infinite connection with their Jukurrpa.
They keep their cultural heritage alive through educating the younger generation. They strongly contribute in all facets of Australian society and continue their struggle to regain the respect, the rights and the dignity deserving of a proud people.
Marana Gallery acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the traditional custodians of the land in which we live and work.