Aboriginal culture is the oldest continuous culture in the world. This is, in part, attributed to a genetic mutation which enables Aboriginal people to adapt to high temperatures and childhood diseases.
Both ancient and contemporary Aboriginal art are based on Dreamtime stories which have been passed down through generations for 50,000 years. Having no written language of their own, these stories relate cultural events, teach about survival and how to use the land.
Among the Aboriginal groups there are differing perspectives of the sacred knowledge. An artist needs permission from his/her group to paint a story. The story can only reflect the history and culture of the family group into which the artist is born.
The dot painting technique has been in use for 47 years. Aboriginal artists were concerned that the white man would become privy to the icons or symbols containing their sacred teachings. Using thousands of minute dots, they painted patterns and symbols over them..
Body painting in Aboriginal culture is a part of religious ceremonies and has deep spiritual significance. The scarring, body painting, feathers, shells and ornaments indicate the person´s age ands status within the community. Body painting, accompanied by dance, tells the story of a particular Aboriginal group´s relationship to the earth, animals and their ancestors.
Rock art, paintings and etchings are found on the walls of rock shelters and caves in many parts of Australia. The earliest example of Aboriginal rock art in Western Australia´s Pilbara region is thought to be 40,000 years old. The location of many of these sites, considered sacred by the local Aboriginal people, are not publicized to avoid being vandalised.
Ochres, earthy coloured pigments that were the basis of Australian Aboriginal art, were used for rock wall engravings, on bark and for body painting 30,000 years ago. The first paintings only appeared in the 1930s and initially used water colours.
A lesser known fact is that the Aboriginal people were trading and exchanging ideas and skills with other cultures – Dutch and Portuguese traders and Makassans (Indonesia) - many years prior to the settlement of Europeans in Australia in 1778.
In central Australia is Uluru, one of the most sacred Aboriginal sites in Australia. A massive sandstone rock formation, Uluru holds particular spiritual significance for the Pitjantjajara Anangu people who live there. It is also known as Ayres Rock, the name given by early explorers.
The digeridoo originated from the Yolngu people in Arnhem Land, Northern Australia over 40,000 years ago. This makes it one of the world´s oldest instruments. A digeridoo was made from trees trunks or branches of the eucalyptus that had been hollowed out by termites or white ants. These days, it may also be made from bamboo or agave.