Yolngu Dreamings - Aboriginal Art from Australia's Northern Territories

Article excerpt

The Asia Society in New York recently mounted an exhibition of works by Aboriginal artists from a small community on the central northern coast of Australia. Showing nearly two hundred works now in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, The Native Born: Contemporary Aboriginal Art from Ramingining, Australia has been on a world tour for the past two years. The Asia Society, where the exhibition was on display from September through January, was the show's only American venue.

Exhibitions of art made by Australia's indigenous people are rare in the United States; rarer still are shows devoted to works from Arnhem Land, in which Ramingining is situated. Inhabitants of Ramingining call themselves Yolngu, and artists there are noted for their rock and bark paintings, sculptures, and weaving. In contrast to desert painters from central Australia, whose dot paintings have found international renown, Yolngu painters usually employ a distinctive cross-hatching pattern that can cover an entire painting. The surface they use is the inner side of bark stripped from eucalyptus trees prevalent in this verdant environment. Pigments for paintings and sculptures are derived from natural substances such as crushed rock and ash, and are fixed with a polymer spray.

Traditionally, works of art and the production of art play an important role in Aboriginal rituals and ceremonies. …