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Dreamings, Through Indigenous Art

Video clip synopsis – Indigenous art is like topographic mapping of land and culture. Michael Nelson Tjakamarra works at painting concentric circles which represent sacred sites.
Year of production - 1988
Duration - 2min 1sec
Tags - Aboriginal art, art, change and continuity, communities, culture, The Dreaming, see all tags

play Warning - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should exercise caution when watching this program as it may contain images of deceased persons.

Dreamings, Through Indigenous Art

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About the Video Clip


Dreamings, Through Indigenous Art is an excerpt from the film Dreamings – The Art of Aboriginal Australia (30 mins), produced in 1988.

The art of Aboriginal Australia is celebrated in Dreamings as we journey into the sacred heartland of Australia to see traditional artists at work. The artists talk of their work, its association with the land and its spiritual connection with their people, the animals and plants. The film explores the meanings behind the works, from acrylic dot paintings of the Central Desert to cross-hatched bark paintings and burial poles of northern Australia, as it allows the viewer access to the oldest continuous art tradition in the world.

Dreamings – The Art of Aboriginal Australia is a Film Australia National Interest Program.

Curriculum Focus


5.8 accounts for differences within and between Australian communities
Students learn about at least ONE Australian community in terms of

  • factors that contribute to the community’s sense of identity
  • factors causing change in the community
  • individuals, groups and levels of government involved in the process of change
  • community responses to change
  • purpose, structure and actions of community groups responding to change
This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

Background Information


There are several different major Aboriginal art styles, including X-Ray and cross-hatching, and the one seen in this film, the dot style from Central Australia.

Aboriginal art was traditionally created on bodies, in the dirt, on trees or artefacts, and on rocks. In the 1970s school teacher Geoffrey Bardon encouraged the Papunya Tula people of Central Australia to use acrylic paint on canvas, boards and cloth, which triggered an explosion of traditional and new Indigenous art and an increasing respect for and recognition of it among non-Indigenous Australians.

Aboriginal art works reflect *culture and environment and are often created as a co-operative work.

Dreaming stories tell about how and when the earth, as Aboriginal people know it, was made. Dreaming stories are passed from one generation to the next through songs, dances and art.

*culture – (distinctive) practices and beliefs of a society or group of people

Classroom Activities

  1. Write a brief synopsis of the video clip
  2. How are some Aboriginal paintings like maps of the landscape?
  3. Through an internest search find out about the Papunya community of central Australia in terms of:
    1. location
    2. population size
    3. why it is considered a community (shared space and/or social organisation)
    4. what the factors are that have caused change and how they impact on the community
    5. what strategies and actions of individuals, groups and different levels of governments have been enacted to respond to change?

Further Resources


Go to Australian Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission website HREOC