Aboriginal Bark Painting

Aboriginal bark painting is a practice that goes back thousands of years. They were originally practiced by Australian aboriginals on the interior part of a tree, just below a stripped bark. Bark paintings were typically used for ceremonial purposes and is still being used today in some areas such as Arnhem Land. The earliest record of bark painting was during 1800 to 1804 where a French artist saw and recorded the craft etched on a bark standing over a grave.

Purpose and Creation

Aboriginal bark painting served the same purpose as books of today. Aborigines used it for instructional and storytelling goals. The paintings which can be drawn using different mediums show aspects of the aboriginal life. They tell stories typically told to children during the wet season. Most paintings carry the sign of the clan, essentially naming the people responsible for the art.

Creating these artworks not only take patience but precision. Typically, the bark is taken from a eucalyptus tree. Once removed, Australian aboriginals would choose the best section of the bark before preparing it as a canvas. This was usually done by trimming and putting the bark against the fire to dry it out. Painters typically used basic colors — red, white, black and yellow — usually taken from the local environment.


Traditional aboriginal art almost always contains a story. This is, in fact, part of its charm among enthusiasts. The paintings are composed of several elements, each of which with a corresponding meaning. Some of the most commonly used include:

• Dividing lines

• Border

• Figurative designs

• Featured blocks

• Ground

• Cross hatching

• Clan designs

• Geometric designs

Each of these elements may represent a specific aspect of the total design. Some of them might be easy enough to decipher, but others are well hidden and may not be obvious at first glance. For example, some people might simply see a series of lines and curves but for those who know the symbols, a story is already told through the lines.


It is interesting to note that there is a strict code of conduct when it comes to aboriginal art pictures. An uninitiated man or female can only tell stories that are told to children. These stories may be ‘light’, and therefore, are allowed to be told to the public. However, the more interesting stories are the ones that only an initiated man is allowed to paint. The catch here is that they can only paint the story but not orally tell it to anyone who is not initiated.

Buying Aboriginal Bark Painting

Aside from their obvious appeal, aboriginal bark paintings are an excellent way to view the culture of the aborigines. For those who want to own one of these, there are currently various stores where people can obtain an artwork for their home.

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