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Choosing Aboriginal Art

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 22 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Aboriginal Art Digeridoos Boab Nut

Aboriginal art involves a great history of story telling, myths, rituals, sorcery, and magic, where the artist describes their dreaming, the stories of creation, their beliefs, and their spirituality. The strong relationship between the ancestral beings of the 'time before time', the Dreamtime, with the landscape and every living creature they created forms the basis for this art.

The Boomerang

Boomerangs are made from hard wood, shaped, smoothed down, sometimes "fired" as with bark for paintings and other artefacts - and then treated with a preservative. Working boomerangs are left in their natural state, while ceremonial boomerangs are painted. Shapes differ, from the familiar "pointed" shape favoured in the Northern Territory to the asymmetrical type - with one side being much shorter than the other (the long side equals the throwing side which is held by the user.) Right and left handed boomerangs were always made - the back of the boomerang is flat and the top side very often slightly "rounded".

The purpose of the boomerang in the Aboriginal life was for hitting the target. In the event of this not happening, it landed back in the general direction from which it was thrown, providing nothing got in its way. Aboriginal people possessed few tools - the ones they had, were put to good use. Primarily, the boomerang was used by the men for hunting animals.

The Digeridoo

The digeridoo is unique wind instrument made and played by the indigenous people of Northern Australia. It is often claimed to be the world's oldest instrument. A didgeridoo is usually cylindrical or conical in shape and can measure anywhere from 1 to 2 metres with most instruments measuring around 1.5 metres. Instruments shorter or longer than this are less common. Generally, the longer the instrument, the lower the pitch or key of the instrument. Keys from D to F? are the preferred pitch of traditional Aboriginal players. The didgeridoo is sometimes played as a solo instrument for recreational purposes, though more usually it accompanies dancing and singing in ceremonial rituals. For Aboriginal groups of northern Australia, the didgeridoo is an integral part of ceremonial life, as it accompanies singers and dancers in religious rituals.

Boab Nut Carvings

The Boab tree only grows in the Kimberley Region of West Australia and the Victoria River area of the Northern Territory. Its trunk is voluminous, often trees are seen growing in "triplicate" (three trunks intertwined), its branches spider like in comparison with the bulky trunk - impressively monolithic to say the least. Aboriginal people used it for shelter, and its large nuts for food and medicinal purposes. The early white settlers often chose particular trees as meeting places on stock routes when droving - and then there is the Prison Boab near Derby, able to hold up to ten prisoners overnight, en route to the next town.

These days, the Boab tree has become part of the Art of the Aboriginal people - the large nuts provide a wonderful material for painting and carving. The nut picking is vital to the finished product. The nuts must dry on the trees, but be picked before the sudden winds which sever the nuts from the branches. The larger and better formed the nut, the more sought after - but then, even the small ones are presented as tiny birds, echidnas, and all manner of interesting flora, fauna and ornamental objects.

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