How did the aboriginal people create their rock art?

Australia is home to the oldest continuous culture in the entire world; the Aboriginal people. The Indigenous Australians were the very first to ever inhabit Australia, residing throughout the land for at least 40,000 to 60,000 years. Once, there were over 500 different aboriginal nations, with a vast range of diversity in culture and language. Unfortunately, due to the European invasion and complete devastation of the indigenous community, the majority of these nations have ceased to exist. Luckily, historical artefacts still remain, with a number of rock art pieces still found in Australia, documenting this ancient community with their traditions and beliefs.

What is Rock Art?

The Aboriginal Rock Art refers to both the rock carvings and paintings found in natural regions within Australia. Both the paintings and carvings typically depicted subjects in the aboriginal community’s life. With native animals and humans being the main subject matter. However, there are instances that display abstract figures that are considered the spirits of the land. The rock styles and manners of depiction are ever changing depending on the region. Nevertheless, they all commonly show the culture of the aboriginal people.

How were they made?

The aboriginal carvings found in Australia were made through abrasion, using hard objects to cut away at the rock surfaces until the artworks formed. The rock art paintings, in contrast, were a lot more vulnerable, predominantly found in caves that have been safe from rainfall. These caves were said to be shelters for the aboriginal people, with a number of the artworks directly relating to the certain communities living within. The paint used on the rock was made from extracted colours of earthen minerals, crushing pigments on a stone palette and mixing them together with water to form a paste. They either used brushes from human hair, reeds, feathers, and sticks. Or created stencils by using their mouths to blow the wet pigment around objects.

Kakadu’s Rock Art

In Kakadu, the local Aboriginal word for rock art is ‘gunbim’, with the Bininj/Mungguy being the creators of this region’s artwork. They used their art to express their connection to the land and their cultural identity. It is said that the act of painting was more important than the actual painting itself, and this can be shown by numerous artworks being painted over each other with new pieces.

The Bininj/Mungguy community continues to this day, with a number of modern galleries showcasing new and old art pieces.

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