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AUSTRALIA

Australia ...
Aboriginal culture

When the Europeans arrived in Australia in the 18th century, there existed over 200 different languages and some 800 dialects. Today, only about 50 are used as vernacular languages. This shows that there never has been any homogeneous Aboriginal society in Australia, because of the large size of the continent, the unevenness of the ground, across which the Aboriginals had walk (there were no beasts of burden or draught animals, which made contacts easier on the other continents) and the great diversity in climates, faunas and floras. This is the reason why tribes, living on hunting and picking have adapted themselves to their environment and developed their own linguistic, cultural and artistic habits. Bark paintings and wood carving have therefore been produced in the communities living in the tropical forests of the north and on the coasts. Stone carving and body painting are produced in the desert regions of the centre and the west.

 

However, a crucial element link up all these groups: their relation to the universe. Australian Aboriginals' religious life revolves around the notion of Dream, a word borrowed from the European vocabulary and used by the Aboriginals to express the physical, moral and spiritual order ruling the universe. The Dream evokes a period beginning with the genesis and comprehending immemorial past. This period is also called the "Dreamtime", that is to say the time of Creation, when mythical entities, male and female, came out from the Earth, as humans, animals or plants, to shape the world, create night and day, the cycle of life, etc. These mythical heroes set up the first religious ceremonies, sang the first songs, painted the first signs which the revealed to Men in their Dreams.

Each individual inherits a Dream he becomes the "owner" of and is also the "guardian" of one or several specific sites associated to this Dream. Some Dreams are related to mythical routes, stretching on hundreds of kilometers. These routes make up a complex network of family, social and religious relations that represent the essentially mythical geography of Australia.

 

As a people devoid of writing, Australian Aboriginals read the Earth as a book – it is their living memory, including everything that is related to it: the sea, the sky, the Milky Way, etc.

The Aboriginals are very much attached to their ancestral way of life (some of them are still nomadic) and live mainly inside the country, in the bush and the outback. They hunt with spears – a tradition coming from the Dreamtime – and propellers, or with boomerangs; and pick is still practiced by the women of the tribe – with a digging stick they gather roots (like yam), seeds and berries.

 

Music and singing have always been an important element in Aboriginal culture insofar as they are used to pass on traditions, from generation to generation. The legends are told like western chansons de geste on religious feasts during which the Aboriginals use boomerangs or music sticks like percussion instruments. They also use didgeridoos, made of eucalyptus, scooped out by termites.

The Aboriginals live on vast territories they have become the owners of since the enforcement, in 1976, of the Land Rights Act. Already in 1967, they had been granted the status of full citizen. Today, they are aided by many programs aiming at reducing the inequalities they endured in the past.

  Some references:
Musée du Quai Branly, Musée des Confluences à Lyon, Musée d'Art Contemporain les Abattoirs à Toulouse, Musée des Arts d’Afrique et d’Asie de Vichy, Musée de la Musique, Museum d'histoire naturelle de Lille, Musée de Rochefort, Fondation Electricité de France, Fondation Colas, Banque Dexia ...

We are members of the Chambre Nationale des Experts Spécialisés en Objets d'Art et de Collection (C.N.E.S.)*
We are members of the Comité Professionnel des Galeries d'Art
*National French Chamber of experts specialized in artworks
Comité des Galeries d'Art