Australian aboriginal culture_abridgedPresentation Transcript
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Jjenna Hupp-AndrewsKimberly M. Radek Australian Aboriginal Culture, the Origin and Evolution of Happiness
The people who first settled Australia and New Guinea come from a genetic line that distinguishes itself from other African lines about 60,000 years ago. Genetic evidence suggests that they migrated from Africa 50,000 years ago and continued to populate the continent virtually undisturbed—aside of trade with close neighbors—until James Cook's 1770 expedition began the English settlement and encroachment, when they began to use it as a penal colony. History Map from FamilytreeDNA
Alexander N. Smith of the Astronomy department at Pomona College has studied how the aborigines traveled, observing that they traveled more at night because of their understanding of and relationship to the night sky. He writes, “Much of this travel was directed by a keen sense of the night sky and the positions of stars, as well as by a system of remarkable songs that would actually have physical descriptions of the features of the terrain and of sources of food and water that the traveller would need to recognize to make it safely to the next camp. These songlines were often very long and complex songs which could take people hundreds of miles safely.” Travel
Smith acknowledges, too, that “[a]nother relative unifier among the Aboriginal peoples is the concept of Dreamtime, the time of creation when various spirits and animals walked the earth. Even if this time has passed, however, it is still possible to reconnect with the forces that lived in the Dreamtime. The Dreamtime is a difficult concept for Westerners to grasp, for it is a highly mystical, enveloping concept. It is also interesting to note that the concept of Dreamtime dramatically lessened armed conflict among the different groups of pre-colonial Australia. As all the land was sacred and wrapped up in the remnants of Dreamtime, virtually no wars of conquest took place in relatively recent history. For a continent with hundreds of different peoples, it was remarkably peaceful.” Dreamtime
In most Aboriginal philosophy, people are part of nature and, although they utilize it, are not meant to be in competition with it—as Mike Donaldson explains, “In their cosmology, the Dreamtime (or Dreaming), they joined ‘time, spirit and supernatural event’ (Williams, 1986:234) and through it they directed and coordinated the use of their efficient, original and ‘bewilderingly diverse’ technologies (Flood, 1989: 79, 131, 150, 151-4). This unity of belief is perhaps what has allowed them to attain happiness in spite of extreme racial prejudice and displacement. As Corinne Manning recognizes, “Many Aboriginal people identify community spirit amongst fringe dwellers as the main reason for such happiness. Michael Wilton stated that in the fringe camp 'We were all one big family‘. Although Victorian Aborigines had been dispossessed of their traditional lands for several decades, they continued to uphold some traditional cultural practises such as spiritual ceremonies, storytelling and the maintenance of bush skills. Fringe camps provided Aboriginal people with the ability to maintain traditional community ties and kinship obligations.” Happiness
Fred R Myers in his article “Emotions and the Self” details how the Pintupi Aborigines (central desert dwelling tribe) understand and use emotions: Emotions in the Pintupi culture are a way of understanding how one is to function in the social structure as well as understanding who one is in that structure. Their concept of emotions “frequently do not present an introspective view of a person’s feelings” (347). Emotions are understood more as how one is supposed to behave or feel rather than how one may actually feel. They are more about the cultural system than about the individual. “They emphasize the cultural expectations much more than they do specific experiences and interpretations of the individual; they seem illustrations rather than self-conscious introspections” (348). The Pintupi and Happiness
The moral order of the Pintupi revolves around the concept of Walytja (kinship). Their universe is divided into those who are kin and those who are not. This concept of kinship is central to the Pintupi idea of happiness, which holds that: It would be unusual for one sitting alone to be happy. To be around kin, to show and be shown affection, should make one happy “Happy” is a “rising of the spirit” (internal) and yet this individual experience is a result of “smoothly-running relations between the individual and those he or she considers walytji” (Myers 353). Public pleasures come before private pleasures . The focus is always on relations and kin. One is happy to be with, give to, and/or be thinking of others. To want to be alone is seen as suspect. The Pintupi and Happiness, continued
Singing and ritual are the acts that bind walytja together. It is the practice of ritual and singing that reduce discord. Singing, ceremony, and dance are the real content of any gathering and intergroup relations. Any disagreement or discord must be settled before singing. Singing is viewed as “public, community entertainment, public pleasure “ (Myers 354). “Singing makes people “happy” and is seen as opposite of fighting and trouble” (Myers 354). Pintupi Ritual and Song
R. M. W. Dixon adds to Smith’s idea of there being unifying points of the multiple and diverse aboriginal cultures, pointing out that many aboriginal groups have myths about the world that encompass geography and religion. He identifies several different accounts that describe historical geography. For example, he explains that in one myth, "two newly-initiated men had broken a taboo and angered the rainbow-serpent: ‘the camping place began to change, the earth under the camp roaring like thunder. The wind started to blow down, as if a cyclone were coming. The camping-place began to twist and crack. While this was happening there was in the sky a red cloud, of a hue never seen before. The people tried to run from side to side but were swallowed by a crack which opened in the ground’. . . .(Dixon 1979:29) This,” he concludes, “is a plausible description of a volcanic eruption; yet these craters are thought to have been formed at least 13,000 years ago" (129). Myth and Geographic History
The art left by ancient Aboriginal artists can take several forms, but three that will be addressed here are their cave paintings, one style having silhouettes of hands and weapons, another having the shapes of animals or people with a view of internal anatomy, and a final one of abstract-looking geometric shapes. Stencil X-Ray Geometric Art and Geographic History
Aboriginal Art Online explains that in spite of regional diversity, “Stencils . . . are found almost everywhere. They are mostly of hands ranging in size from baby to adult. These images were made by holding an object, whether a hand or foot or utensil or weapon, against the surface of the rock and spraying liquid pigment from the mouth over and around it so that its clear outline was left on the rock.” Stencil Paintings Stencil paintings from Carnarvon Gorge, Queensland.
Jennifer Wagelie, of the City University of New York , explains that “The ‘X-ray’ tradition in Aboriginal art is thought to have developed around 2000 B.C. and continues to the present day. . . . [It] depicts animals or human figures in which the internal organs and bone structures are clearly visible. X-ray art includes sacred images of ancestral supernatural beings as well as secular works depicting fish and animals that were important food sources. In many instances, the paintings show fish and game species from the local area. Through the creation of X-ray art, Aboriginal painters express their ongoing relationships with the natural and supernatural worlds.” X-Ray Paintings Images at Injaluk, from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/xray/hd_xray.htm
Aboriginal Art Online describes the geometic paintings, saying “The cave and rock imagery of the desert also has its own distinctive style. The principal motifs are a variety of circles, semicircles, spirals, dots and lines. Totemic ancestors are portrayed in simple lines, tracks and geometric designs. However, contact paintings - usually illustrating animals and objects that are not part of the Aboriginal mythological universe - are generally naturalistic rather than abstract in form.” Geometric Paintings Donkin, Gordon, 1885-1970. Wandjina painting.From the Digital Collections of the National Library of Australia
The Australian Aboriginal tribes are living cultures with an art tradition that has evolved with them. Traditionally, paintings were completed on the ground or rocks as part of a ritual and were temporary, only to be viewed by the initiated. When the Europeans came to Australia and sent the Aboriginal children to boarding school to be “educated and civilized,” they held onto their culture (against all odds). One Priest noticed that they were drawing abstract designs and such decided to give them the tools to make the art permanent. It was here that the contemporary tradition of painting on bark and wood began. This made it possible to make paintings that were permanent, but as to not offend the ancestors; the sacred designs are never drawn or painted in this form. The three main types of contemporary art are Dot Designs, Cross Hatchings, and Landscapes Contemporary Art
Contemporary Art Dot Painting: Each Aboriginal tribe has their own view of "The Dream time." This is the story of the creation. For the Nyoongar people it is the Rainbow Serpent Dream time. Their name for the rainbow serpent is the Wagul. Most dream stories can take up to two or three days to tell. This painting represents a central meeting location in the center where the swirled circle is. The lines that run parallel along if are rivers or some sort of waterway. All of the little groups of u shaped objects scattered around are meeting circles of a group.
Judy Watson NapangardiWarlpiri, born c. 1935Mina MinaJukurrpa (Woman Dreaming) 2004Acrylic on CanvasDepicts Mina Mina area west of Yeudumu community associated with many women Dreaming narratives. One story: Group of women walk through the countryside gathering food and snake vine (used in making ceremonial. objects). The concentric circles at the top are the roots of the vine, and meandering lines are the vines. The circular shapes are a native fungus like truffles, which the woman ate during their journey. Two of the woman are represented by the u-shapes, which is the shape one leaves on the ground after one sits., accompanied by a straight line depicting a digging stick, and essential tool for unearthing roots.
Contemporary Art This is a detail of Kangaroo Dreaming at Lake Mackay by TjumpoTjiparangka, an example of a landscape that depicts a specific place. The red rectangular form is the lake. The concentric circles are specific landmarks or sites around the lake. This painting illustrates the artistic conventions of basically mapping the landscape. The landscape is approached as if from above and has similarities to a topographical or schematic map, illustrating the unique relationship and understanding these tribes (in this case the Pintupi) have with their environment.
AnatjariTjakamarra, Pinitupi, 1930-1992-Sons and Orphans near Kurlkurta-1984, Acrylic of CanvasDepicts a place near Kurlkurta-that is the location of 2 Dreaming Narratives. 6 circles connected by band is the primordial journey of a father and 2 sons. The double lines represent the sons & the single, the father. Circles at the bottom represent Tjuntinya, a cave where they began their travels. The lines around them are the hills that surround the caves. Each of the circles depict specific places in the landscape where elements in the story take place.
Contemporary Art Please click on the painting by Sandy Tjupurrula to see a virtual tour of the exhibition Dreaming In Color: Aboriginal Art from Balgo. Mundurru, 1992, Acrylic on Canvas
Anderson, Kay, and Colin Perrin. "'The Miserablest People in the World': Race, Humanism and the Australian Aborigine." Australian Journal of Anthropology. 18. (2007): 1, 18-39. Print. Dixon, R.M.W. "Origin Legends and Linguistic Relationships." Oceania 67.2 (1996): 127- 139. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 24 Apr. 2010.Donaldson, Mike. “The End of Time?: Aboriginal Temporality and the British Invasion of Australia.” Time & Society (1996): 5.2:187-207.Manning, Corinne, "'A Helping White Hand' : Assimilation, Welfare and Victoria's Transitional Aboriginal Housing Policy." Labour History 87 (2004): 43 pars. Web. 24 Apr. 2010. <http://www.historycooperative.org/journals/lab/87/manning .html>. Myers, Fred R. “Emotions and the Self: A Theory of Personhood and Political Order among Pintupi Aborigines.” Ethos. Vol. 7, No. 4, 343-370. (Winter, 1979). Jstor. Web. 21 Apr 2010. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/640015> “Rock Art—Page 3.” Aboriginal Art Online. 2000. Web. 17 April 2010. < http://www. aboriginalartonline.com/art/rock3.php>. Smith, Alexander N. "History." Australian Aborigines. Pomona College. Web. 23 April 2010. <http://www.astronomy.pomona.edu/archeo/Other%20student%20web %20sites/ Alex%20 N%20Smith/aborigines/history.htm>. Wade, Nicholas. "In Aborigine DNA, Scientists Chart Single Early Migration to Australia." San Diego Union-Tribune 17 May 2007: n. pag. Web. 23 Apr 2010. <http://archives.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20070517/news_ 1c17aborigin.html>. Wagelie, Jennifer. "X-ray Style in Arnhem Land Rock Art". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. October 2002. Web. 24 April 2010. <http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/xray/hd_xray.htm>. Works Cited