INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIAN ART...songlines of country


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February 11th 2024
Published: February 11th 2024
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I am not indigenous by blood, yet I am Aussie through and through.

How is it that indigenous art from a culture that has inhabited our sunburnt country for 40,000 to 60,000 years fascinates and grabs my soul so profoundly?

I look into the Shailyn Peris Bungle Bungles "Purnululu" hanging above my screen monitor and drift into its allure...into ancient country that I have trekked in the physical and the spirits of the Dreamtime inhabit.

But as a white man I am not supposed to have any place in the Dreamtime.

Yet I enter that spiritual realm and am welcomed to take my place around the campfires where we become one.

Where art overcomes prejudice and indigenous culture becomes the baton that may not be passed to me by right...but I take hold of nevertheless...and embrace.



Dr Nicholas Vlahagiannis of University of Melbourne describes,

"The core of the 'Dreamtime' or an individual's 'Dreaming" is a rich body of mythology which explains the world past and present to the Aborigine. 'Dreaming' merges with 'Dreamtime' and together encompasses the Aboriginal cosmology and history, maps out the physical and metaphysical landscapes of every aspect of
 "Purnululu" by Shailyn Peris "Purnululu" by Shailyn Peris "Purnululu" by Shailyn Peris

One of my purchases from Warman
the land and nature and serves as a system of beliefs controlling religious beliefs, rituals and social behaviour and customs. It intimately and inseparably links every Aborigine to their country or territory which although localised in their perception and representation, in their very essence has been and continues to be recorded and passed down through countless generations through storytelling and song, religious ceremonies and dances such as corroborees and the world's longest tradition of artistic expression, rock and bark paintings, rock and wood carving and screen printing throughout Australia."

Everyone has a unique dreaming, an inner understanding of existence that overlap to create a vast web of tracks over the land.

Some say that the Ancestors sang as they made their way over the land. The paths they made are known as 'Songlines' or dreaming tracks.

Without a written language, painting, storytelling and song were the only ways that history and religion of a tribe could be passed down to future generations.

Our recent travels into the Kimberleys exploring rock art and purchasing original artworks that now hang in our home are constant reminders of our connection to country...whether by right or by
'Borlokko' by Trevor Yganjmirra'Borlokko' by Trevor Yganjmirra'Borlokko' by Trevor Yganjmirra

My first indigenous Art purchase
just being there.

******

Where it all began

In our twenties, Denise and I driving north to Queensland...stopped near Wauchope...an indigenous group selling bark paintings by the side of the road.

A bark painting "Borlokko" by Trevor Yganjmirra of Clan Djalama from Arnhem Land in Northern Territory became my first indigenous artwork.

Framed and adorning the walls of my office became its destiny and songline...its tracks enuring my soul.

Thereafter my only contact was in exhibitions in galleries as Indigenous Art captured the World's imagination and was priced out of reach for this humble dancer.

******

Years pass to June 2023...Jessica and Danny of Kimberley Wild leading 19 Australians and 1 from Ireland into the remote Kimberleys in NW Western Australia..."massaged" by the remote Gibb River Road with one million bumps and many wonders.

Campfires...plethoras of stars...trekking and scrambling...swimming in billabongs and under waterfalls...red dirt...vivid blue skies...indigenous rock art sites...ancient, ancient vistas.

One cannot escape the majesty of the natural world...indigenous culture enchanting us by surprise...nuances of colour unique to these parts...kinda spiritual...all consuming.

Indigenous art on ceremonial rocks and canvas...embracing country where ancient Songlines or Dreaming Tracks awaiting
 Two Echidnas by Steven Jabaljarri Sutton Two Echidnas by Steven Jabaljarri Sutton Two Echidnas by Steven Jabaljarri Sutton

One of my purchases from Kulunurra
discovery and awe when on show.

******

Purchasing artworks kinda crept up like the Screaming Jay Hawkins' tune "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda" (love that song). Took a while for "Shoulda"...probably just as well, as impulse buying can lead to me buying 'crap'.

"Rectifying my Regret" rarely attainable.

Impulse buying like approaching the edge of a gorge or cliff...can fall in if I don't look before I leap.

Since the 'crap' I bought in Malacca many years ago still causing mirth of my companions, I feign caution!

Yet I still bought "the World's Most Expensive Doll" in Russia after seeing the Fairytale Book it came with was "only 10 bucks".

Do I never learn?

Look at the price before you leap, David...Doh!!!




Entering the Indigenous Artworld in the Kimberley.

First temptation at Norval Gallery in Derby. Resident artist Mark Norval with heaps of Wandjinas, inspirational portraits and other artworks. An indigenous woman with her latest painting that Mark was examining... tempting my eyes that way.

The Lonely Planet Australian Travel Guide for 2012 rated Norval Gallery as one of its "Top 60 - top choice must see" destinations Australia wide.

When I discovered Mark's assistant, Ray had played with my favourite Blues guitarist, the late Rory Gallagher in Ireland, I was distracted.

Saw the Rory Gallagher LPs in a milk crate some of which I did not have...yep very distracted.

No thought to enquire the prices of paintings now.

He's the guy that when Jimi Hendrix was asked, "How does it feel being the best guitarist in the World", Jimi said, " I don't know. You should ask Rory Gallagher".

First saw Rory in Concert in the early 1970s following his "Live in Europe" LP...took my later girlfriend Denise the next time he visited Oz 'cos 'Gotta give a girl a good time'.

Rory died in a motor accident in 1994, so sadly only his records and the occasional T-shirt at music festivals...Ahhhh.

The Irish renamed Cork Airport after him and now put on annual Rory Gallagher Festivals at Ballyshannon that we booked and pre-paid to attend but had to cancel and give away our tickets due to work commitments.

"Always a next time" been saying since then.

More like "Once missed, forever missed"...like that fancy rug I didn't buy in Armenia 'cos we were passing out as it was too damned hot!!!

Raincheck Norval...no itchy wallet yet.

Not tempted again until our companions were squaffing scones, jam & cream at Elderslie Station...a massive cattle station which started making and selling scones to tourists to save from financial ruin...now employing ten folk to make 4,000 scones a week..."Make more money from the scones than cattle", he says!!!

This dancer more interested in artworks on the wall near the till..."How much is that one?"

"Too good to pass up. For that price I gotta get it!"

And that's how I bought "Wandjina Mungunda (Bush Potato)" by Samantha Wungundin Allies...now in a floating frame over my bed next to "Mimi Spirits" (my opening photo) by Eddie Blitner ...Stunning.

Polly sees me and wanders up...buying the larger painting next to mine. Nice One. Probably shares pride of place at Fuzzy & Polly's...Oh yeh!



Warmun Art Gallery

The Kimberley has Rock Art sites that are too good not to have their separate blog later.

So I now share where 3 of the women in our group helped me overcome any reluctance to
Rainbow Serpent by Carol JuliRainbow Serpent by Carol JuliRainbow Serpent by Carol Juli

One of my purchases from Warman
open my wallet - Anne, Kate and Denise.

Thank you ladies!!!

We enter the indigenous settlement of Warmun 200 kms south of Kununurra...murals on school and house walls.

Pull up outside the Warmun Art Gallery. While the other pile in, I am more interested in the Green tree frog outside.

When I do enter, there are white walls and corridors with neat rows of indigenous artworks that were quite different in style to those seen previously.

While previous mostly in acrylic on canvas...here they are abstract scenes in ochres and pigments from the regions of origin of the artists.

Like entering a country where one does not speak the local tongue or dialect...takes a while to get used to embracing the culture.

And that's where Anne and Kate step in.

Anne is a retired Curator of the New South Wales Art Gallery who has been here before arranging Exhibitions and meeting artists.

Married to Peter, a Curator of historical museums who shares our love of West African blues.

Kate is a commercial artist who has been wandering around Kimberley Galleries with Denise and I discussing artworks and what she likes and why.

Saying she is looking forward to seeing my woodcarvings I was exhibiting from a previous obsession.

Their expertise and advice encouraging me to reach for my pocket.

I pick a brooding Bungle Bungles pic that has only arrived in the Gallery that morning, "Purnululu" by Shailyn Peris born in Kununurra W.A., Totem Ngarrangarni (Brolga, sand frog, blue tongue lizard), Gija Country, Language Daguragu, a granddaughter of senior artist, Jock Mosquito.

And a striking "Gurlabal Ngarrangarni (Rainbow Serpent)" by Carol Juli, of Skin Nangala, Totem Ngarrangarni, Gija Country, Language Kriol, a granddaughter of the renowned Mabel Juli jumping from the walls of paintings as if saying, "Pick me, pick me."


Gurlabal protects the waterways near Warmun. He found water in the Springvale River, rolled on his back because he overheated, and turned to stone.

The painting depicts his spinal bones among the waterways.

I ask the ladies for advice and they both critique and express approval.

Thank you for your expertise and advice...can't thank you enough.

Denise giving the go-ahead, "This trip is your birthday present...up to you how many birthday presents you wish to buy for yourself. Go for it."

The prices were very affordable, so I pay for both to be specially shipped to our home in Sydney...carefully packed as in ochre they will crack if rolled.



Prologue

Inspired by Indigenous Artwork of the Kimberley, so why not buy more?

We travel for memories, artworks on our walls always a valuable reminder.

"Two Echidnas" by Steven Jabaljarri Sutton born Darwin, N.T, Skin: Jawown...dot painting style of Roper River Region of Northern Territory...small acrylic on canvas for ridiculously low price in Kununurra W.A.

Three signed prints by Judy Prosser "Desert Runner", "Storm Dancers" and "Bushfire Sprite" in Broome that for $95 each were a steal as would be $15,000 each if originals.

Mimi Spirits by Eddie Blitner, Master carver and painter born Katherine, N.T, Clan Barbil, from Naiyalrindji country of the Roper River 270 kms SE of Katherine.

Sought advice from Anne & Kate how best to frame it...can't thank them enough...now in a large floating frame over my bed. Magnificent.

Mimis are tiny spirits that inhabit huge boulders by day and emerge at night to hunt and hold ceremonies, returning at dawn pulling the rock doors of their homes shut after them. In the Dreamtime they taught the medicine men may skills including hunting, weaving, fishing, painting, songs and dance so they could pass them onto the elders of the tribe to teach others.

But why stop there? Tommy Crow's "Sunset Dreaming" (my opening Panorama) at 'In the Picture Framing' at Hornsby as I speak.



Relax & Enjoy,

Dancing Dave


Additional photos below
Photos: 69, Displayed: 29


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11th February 2024

Our original inhabitants & Sharing Songlines
What a privilege it is to be living in this beautiful country amongst our original inhabitants; we should be so lucky!
11th February 2024

Our original inhabitants & Sharing Songlines
Thank you for commenting, Michelle and great to hear from you again. You express it so well. What a privilege indeed!
11th February 2024

Fascinating!
They are simply fascinating! Although I am not an artist myself, one can appreciate beauty. And I love them. I bought some indigenous art from Perth many years ago. I put them inside frames and they are shining my walls at home ever since. Thank you for sharing this, Dave!
11th February 2024

Fascinating!
Thanks Tab. I hope your indigenous Australian art warms you up from your Calgary chill. Glad you appreciate the artwork...fascinating indeed!
12th February 2024
'Mimi Spirits' by Eddie Blitner

The Beauty Within
Striking art work. It is soulful.
12th February 2024
'Mimi Spirits' by Eddie Blitner

The Beauty Within
Thanks MJ. This 'Mimi Spirits' painting gives me a thrill every morning and evening as it hangs above my bed. Blesses my soul. Enjoy your next trip!!!
18th February 2024

Art in Wiluna
On my camping trip back in 2018 , we gatecrashed the opening of a local art gallery in Wiluna .... loved it. Back here in UK we attend arts society meetings and coming up soon it’s Australian Art .... that’ll have to do until I can get back Australia again.
20th February 2024

Art in Wiluna
Thank you for emailing the UK Arts Society article on Australian Aboriginal Art by Rebecca Hossack to me, Lynne. It is always interesting to see overseas expert perspectives. While Wiluna grabbed your attention in Oz, I hope the UK exhibitions you attend take it to another level.
18th February 2024

Beautiful pieces of indigenous Australian art
Thanks for sharing some background on "dreamtime". I wish we living in the so-called developed world hadn't lost the connection to what is beyond words or logic, to the mythical. Always good to get some inspiration here. And the pieces of art on your pictures are simply beautiful.
20th February 2024

Beautiful pieces of indigenous Australian art
Thank you for your well-penned comment, Katha. The Dreamtime may be 'beyond words or logic, to the mythical', but I reject that as a white man I have no right to seek to enter in. Glad you appreciated the art in my pics. The diversity of styles that are developing have so much meaning to the artists, that it is my privilege to own some and share.
24th February 2024

I wanted to buy indigenous art
I wanted to buy indigenous art when I was in Australia but eventually didn't. I loved it but I also knew that it would look out of place in my home. I have very few travel memorabilia from my travels and I rarely buy anything today. When I see it in the store I love it and want to buy it. But I know that there is no place in my home for more stuff so I don't. /Ake
25th February 2024

I wanted to buy indigenous art
I know that there is no place in my home for more stuff, so I do anyway, Ake!!! There are a few pieces in my travels that I passed up and cannot rectify my regret. Always a challenge where to put or what to do with treasures picked up on my travels...but I like challenges and the more to choose from, the more I appreciate the ones that rise to the top!!!
10th March 2024

Thanks for your introduction to your latest obsession!
We recall see your previous obsessions on display in your home...the rugs and your own wood carvings. I also agree that if you are going to spend a lot of money, it is good to get good advice. When I visited the Tibetan ethnographic area of Gansu province, I was very tempted to buy Tibetan jade objects, but declined as I could not verify that they were truly jade. Linda and I share a similar obsession as yours with the Southwestern native Americans, mostly collecting pottery and rugs...and books by James Doss and the Hillermans that highlight their beliefs such as dream catchers and shape shifters.
5th April 2024

Thanks for your introduction to your latest obsession!
Yet again I run out of wall space, Bob. I have just picked up Tommy Crow's "Sunset Dreaming" from the framer's (My opening Panorama pic) and how can I display its magnificence? Love the beliefs of the USA SW Native Americans of dream catchers and shape shifters. Gives the Navajo jewellery Denise purchased in Arizona in a polar vortex near Monument Valley as an even greater allure. May you fill your home with memories of your extensive travels as memories are the greatest treasure. Thanks for sharing.
16th March 2024

The Norval Gallery
We also found this absolutely sensational. Going to this part of the world does indeed feel like a spiritual experience.
5th April 2024

The Norval Gallery
Great to see your comment, Dave. We followed your Kimberley adventure shortly after yours, so your tips were much appreciated. My next blog will be the Kimberley rock art which was a major inducement for our embrace of that remote and spiritual country.

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