Richard Bell, Scientia E Metaphysica (Bell’s Theorem) 2003, Acrylic on canvas, 240 x 540cm. Milani Gallery. In 2002 Bell decried how the white-controlled Aboriginal art industry privileged art from remote areas as more “authentic” than that from urban areas. Vernon Ah Kee, another successful artist in Milani’s gallery, agrees: urban Aborigines “are as much Aboriginal as anybody else” and, adds Bell, “we paid the biggest price” for colonisation.
For over a thousand generations Aboriginal people made no distinction between art and craft. Art was, and still is, a way of life and as much about function as it is about beauty and form. Artistic forms continue to be used to give Aboriginal people skills, knowledge and practical tools to survive, thrive and manage the continent of Australia.
Many Dreaming narratives take the form of lengthy epics, and involve journeying, detailing the inter- and intra-species encounters that take place in the course of those travels.
A rich inventory of monstrous figures exists throughout Aboriginal Australia. The specific form that their wickedness takes depends to a considerable extent on their location.
Aboriginal kinship is an integral part of The Dreaming, as are people themselves and their land (or “country” as it’s known in Aboriginal English). One’s place in the kinship system also determines one’s rights and obligations with respect to other people, country, and artistic expression.