A Little History

Australian Aboriginals

To this day, there are many theories but no definite single accepted origin of these indigenous people. It is known, though, that they did migrate to Australia by way of Southeast Asia. Despite this, there is no evidence to prove any relation to either Asian or Polynesian race. What evidence exists is that of their linguistic interchange from the northern Australians and the Austronesian population in modern day New Guinea, further proved by genetic evidence. This may also well be due to trade dealings and interracial marriages in the past.

The History of Aboriginal People

The Aboriginal Australians have a rich history that took place for a long stretch of 40,000 to 45,000 years. There is no clear claim regarding this. Some historians say that they have reached up to 80,000 years prior to the settlement of Europeans. Others, still, say that the real figures are as low as 10,000 years. Whichever of these estimates are true, it can be said that an important fact is that these natives led lives close to those of nomads, living off through hunting and gathering. They depended greatly on their Mother land and its resources to survive.

Their history shifted by a great stretch post 18th to 19th centuries as the British men settled. The Aborigines’ lives experienced dismantlement as they were subdued and inevitably became under the rule of the European powers. It was not long after this that they had to assimilate into the culture of the Western territories. To this day, tracing back to the 1960s, the European Australians have been pursuing reconciliation with the Indigenous Australians.

Different Aboriginal Australian Clans

Aborigines lived in groups they called “clans” in each country. Clans are basically members of an extended family according to the definitions of Aboriginal kinship. Despite this type of grouping, it was common for individuals from different clans to interact. Cross-country interactions were common as well, although there were a number of very strict rules and protocol regarding contact.

The Pitjantjatjara are the largest Aboriginal group in existence today. They are settled near Uluru / Ayers Rock and in the Southern territories Anagu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara. The second largest community of Aborigines are called Arrernte, living around Alice Springs. The third largest group are the Luritja in between the earlier mentioned locations.

Aborigines are the first inhabitants of the continent of Australia and other neighboring islands. They are considered one of the two: Aboriginal natives or Islanders of the Torres Strait, the latter making up around 2.6 percent of the total population of Australia. They are indigenous to the Torres Strait Islands, located at the very north of Queensland, close to Papua New Guinea. Through the years, traditions have set the term Aboriginal to refer to different indigenous people of both mainland Australia and Tasmania, as well as nearby islands. As times progressed, the term Aboriginal has become less commonly used, and the specific groups preferred to be called by their group’s namesake. This may be an issue of individuality.

Various groups of Aboriginal people and Australian societies experience a huge degree of diversity. Each group is unique with its own culture, languages, customs, and lifestyles. Today, there are more communities which have branched out further from these very groups. The number of Aboriginal Australians reached 318,000 to 750,000 at the time of European reign and settlement. Majority of the population lived in the south-east along the Murray River. All of these different groups may have been related at some point in the past, but there are noticeable variations in terms of their cultures, social traditions and conventions, languages, customs, and ways of life.

Contemporary Aboriginal Art

Aboriginal art has grown and developed over the years since the times of the very first Aboriginal artists and painters. You can trace the peak of the flourishing of contemporary Aboriginal art back since the central desert art movement began to rise in Papunya, progressing to the antecedents of their art work in the modern world, using less traditional materials in a setting of mixed cultures. However far their art has come to this day, it is important to remember that all this comes from their roots – the Australian natives’ culture and traditional ways.

To define contemporary Aboriginal art is a little difficult. What is clear is that it is not anything new, devised, nor designed. It is not anything that was never seen before. This is because the only real changes that have taken place are the materials used, equipment and tools needed, and the generation of artists that create these pieces of art. At the end of the day, these are still authentic, original, and culturally-relevant pieces of Aboriginal culture.

The Aboriginal Art and Culture in Contemporary Times

The very nature of the Aborigines is to be keen observants of everything that happens in their environment, including the people around them. They endure hardships with conviction and strive to live harmoniously with their fellow natives and their Mother land. These people are gifted with a land that is abundant with different resources, and they make it a point to use these gifts in the best ways that they can, sharing them with family members, friends, and neighbors in need. It is only natural that they have an innate calling to defend their land at all costs while putting into life all the traditions and beliefs that those who came before them passed on to them for them to carry out to the future generations. Aborigines value the importance of obedience to their elders’ and ancestors’ wisdom, told with valour through the act of Dreaming.

All of these cultural traits and truths are what are showcased in the contemporary Aboriginal art. The greatest proof of authenticity of their works of art and crafts is their very nature and the beliefs that they stand for. The way they express their art, culture, and lifestyle through painting, weaving, music, carving, storytelling, weaponry, and Dreaming is the ultimate test of authenticity and goes to show that despite the times have changed and their art is now called contemporary, the Aborigines have stayed their unique and true selves with respect to their predecessors.

Aboriginal Art: The Old and the Young

It is indeed important to remember the first artists who have passed away but left their legacies behind through their craft. Despite this, it is also equally relevant to give due justice and credit to the modern artists who have kept on producing noteworthy and culturally relevant works of art. It is quite a marvel to believe that at this age and time, there are still Aborigines who are actively creating artwork in different forms to share to the rest of the world.

This only adds up to the necessity of giving ethically correct respect and treatment for these artists. There are cases of exploitation of some artists through unfair compensation (i.e. giving really cheap payments for their work) and production of fake, fraudulent, or poorly done artwork and selling these to the market for fast and easy money. These acts are great insults to the very heritage and legacy of the whole line of Aborigines. It is important to realize these things in order to act as vigilant as possible to keep their artwork and culture afloat for more generations to come.

 A Guide to Buying Aboriginal Art
The Importance of Provenance
Ethical Buying of Aboriginal Art


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