Symbols in Aboriginal Art




When I was a child, I lived in Australia.  On weekends we drove into the “bush” where we threw down a blanket and enjoyed a picnic with the ants.  Sometimes, we came across rocks with strange paintings.  Some were covered with scrub, others uncovered but their colors had faded from age and sun.   Later, I learned that these paintings and carvings were the “writings” of Australian aboriginal people.  These were their way of expression.  Within their art are traditional symbols which can be read in multiple ways.  The artist might be the only person who can interpret his “writing.”

Some of these symbols were circles that represented bowls, waterholes, campsites, wells, stars, possums, or ants.  Some symbols were half circles, some included stripes and strokes or multiple circles within circles.

Our writing is symbolic as well.  Look at the writing of Joseph Conrad in “Heart of Darkness.”   Rivers represent life, snakes might represent evil, peaches represent fertility in T.S. Eliot, a headless angel might be the end of innocence.   The motifs in our writings are our symbology.

What are the motifs you come back to in your work?

How would you interpret the paintings and cartoon above?

(ps. The cartoon is my Australian sense of humor)

Prompt for today:   Write about how life often goes around in circles.  (The old adage that what goes around comes around.)   Does it?  Write a micro-fiction or a prose poem about going in circles.

Kaye LindenSymbols in Aboriginal Art

2 Comments on “Symbols in Aboriginal Art”

  1. ellen herbert

    We’re on the same wavelength, Kaye.
    I posted yesterday about Latin, a language no one speaks. My mom taught Latin; through the years, Latin has come to symbolize our difficulties in understanding one another.
    cheers and happy Monday,

  2. Kaye Linden

    Thanks Ellen.
    I actually studied Latin in high school. What I got out of it was an understanding of the roots of words. If I don’t know a word, I try to look at its root. Agra, for example, means field in Latin. Hence “agriculture.” k.

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