Aboriginal Art at Ayers Rock Vanishes as Wind, Rain and Vandalism Takes Its Toll

By Marks, Kathy | The Independent (London, England), September 5, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Aboriginal Art at Ayers Rock Vanishes as Wind, Rain and Vandalism Takes Its Toll


Marks, Kathy, The Independent (London, England)


AUSTRALIAN SCIENTISTS have been asked to help preserve ancient Aboriginal rock art at Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, which is vanishing as a result of wind, rain and vandalism.

There are about 90 rock art sites around the base of Uluru, depicting the stories and ancestral totems of the Anangu people. But the art, possibly the oldest and most valuable in Australia, is being ravaged by the elements, while graffiti sprayed by tourists is also damaging it.

A team from Melbourne University has started working with the Anangu, the traditional owners of Uluru, to document the paintings for posterity. The scientists are making sketches and digital images of the sites, and recording video footage of Anangu elders recounting the stories associated with them. Three-dimensional images are also being made.

The move was initiated at the request of the Anangu, who feared that their history and "Dreamtime" stories might be lost as older generations died. They hope the use of modern technology may re- engage younger people in their 40,000-year-old culture.

Graham Calma, of the Mutitjulu community, said: "It's part of their heritage, but it's a problem to try to keep them interested."

The Melbourne team plans to compile a database of the art that will become a resource and educational tool. Cliff Ogleby, co- ordinator of the project, said: "The older people see it as a sort of `keeping place' where things that are important to them can be kept and looked after.

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