Articles on Indigenous culture

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Carly Sheppard is performing in Melbourne as part of Next Wave. Gregory Lorenzutti

White Face – some notes from a fair-skinned Aboriginal

Carly Sheppard’s latest work, White Face playing as part of Melbourne’s Next Wave festival this week, is a contemporary performance addressing personal experiences as a fair-skinned Aboriginal person based…
Australian Indigenous performance traditions are a unique expression of what it is to be human. Tali Caspi

We’ve lost 98% of Indigenous music traditions – who cares?

Australian Indigenous performance traditions, among the oldest in the world, are also among the most endangered. According to a Statement on Indigenous Australian Music and Dance endorsed in 2011 by the…
Nura Rupert, Australia, c.1933. Pitjantjatjara people, South Australia, Mamu (Spooky spirits) 2006, Ernabella, South Australia, synthetic polymer paint on linen 92x122cm. Ed and Sue Tweddell Fund for South Australian Contemporary Art 2006. Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide © Nura Rupert, courtesy of Ernabella Arts

‘Dreamings’ and place – Aboriginal monsters and their meanings

A rich inventory of monstrous figures exists throughout Aboriginal Australia. The specific form that their wickedness takes depends to a considerable extent on their location. In the Australian Central…
Aboriginal Mimi ‘trickster’ spirits are genderless. Making Camp at 'Forest, Cunningham's Gap, 1856', 2009, pigmented inks on 310gsm Huhnemuble German Etching Paper, edition of 5, 29.5 x 42 cm (paper size). Courtesy of the artist, Troy-Anthony Baylis

The art of seeing Aboriginal Australia’s queer potential

Since European contact Aboriginal people, such as myself, have been constructed as “straight”. This cultural default has contributed to the difficulty of proving so-called “real accounts” of sexual and…
Desert Designs showcase their unique aesthetic in Sydney this week. Ryan Kitching

A hot new model at the Australian Indigenous Fashion Week

It’s not difficult to find reference to Indigenous ethnographic designs in contemporary Australia. Motifs from Adelaide’s Balarinji Design Studios coat Qantas’ Boeing fleet and elders wore Victorian possum…
The resources housed in the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages include educational materials for children. Fiona Morrison/Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages

Some vital signs for Aboriginal languages

Attitudes and policies relating to Australian Indigenous languages are in a state of flux. The Northern Territory government is reportedly again aiming to banish Aboriginal languages from the classroom…
Linda Namiyal Bopirri, 1990, Yolngu Matha, Dhuwa moiety, (Liyagalawumirr), Guruwara, Ramingining, Central Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Birds on Oyster Bank, (‘Oyster Dreaming’, ‘Wayanaka’), Acrylic and Natural Pigments on Canvas, 122x122 cm. © the artist's estate, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd; Burkhardt-Felder Collection, Switzerland

Location, location, location: two contrasting Dreaming narratives

Location, location, location. The real estate agents’ hollow, hackneyed mantra takes on real purchase when applied to the distribution of Dreamings and Dreaming narratives across this continent and its…
Shorty Jangala Robertson, 2011, Warlpiri, ‘Ngapa Jukurrpa’ (Water Dreaming) – Pirlinyanu, 76 x 76 cm. Copyright the artist; Warlukurlangu Artists, Yuendumu.

‘Dreamings’ and dreaming narratives: what’s the relationship?

To imagine what “Australia” was like B.C. (“Before Cook”, or before colonisation), one needs to envision the entire landmass of this island/continent and most of its surrounding islands and waters as crisscrossed…
George Liwukan Bukulaptji, 1990, Yolngu, Galiwin'ku, (Elcho Island), Octopus Dreaming, Garumara, acrylic with natural pigments on canvas, 76x152cm. © the artist's estate, licensed by Aboriginal Artists Agency Ltd; Burkhardt-Felder Collection, Switzerland

‘Dreamtime’ and ‘The Dreaming’: who dreamed up these terms?

** **We’re all, it seems, familiar with the terms “Dreamtime” and “The Dreaming” in relation to Aboriginal Australian culture, but – as I noted in the first part of this series – such terms are grossly…
Black Diggers tells the stories of young Indigenous soldiers who fought in the first world war. How did their stories get forgotten? Jamie Williams/Sydney Festival

Indigenous soldiers remembered: the research behind Black Diggers

In August 2012, I was invited by the Sydney Festival to work with Wesley Enoch, Artistic Director of Queensland Theatre Company, to assist in developing Black Diggers, currently playing as part of the…
Rosie Tasman Napurrurla, Warlpiri 2002, Ngurlu Jukurrpa (‘Grass Seed; Bush Grain Dreaming’), line etching on Hahnemuhle paper. Warnayaka Art Centre, Lajamanu, and Aboriginal Art Prints Network, Sydney

‘Dreamtime’ and ‘The Dreaming’ – an introduction

In 2002, Jeannie Herbert Nungarrayi, formerly a Warlpiri teacher at the Lajamanu School in the Tanami Desert of the Northern Territory, where I worked for many years first as a linguist and then as school…
Many remote communities have been cut off from the internet, missing out on services and skills others take for granted. yaruman5/flickr

Getting remote Indigenous communities online

Most remote Australian Indigenous communities have little or no access to digital technology. Last year, three internet-enabled terminals were installed as a trial in the remote communities of Burraluba…
Two golden records, on their way out of our solar system, carry Australian Aboriginal music – but what’s the real story behind the recording? x-ray delta one

Beyond the morning star: the real tale of the Voyagers’ Aboriginal music

Earlier this year, NASA spacecraft Voyager 1 left our solar system after a 35-year journey, carrying with it a golden record containing sounds, images and music from Earth. Its sister craft, Voyager 2…
Torres Strait Islanders use constellations, such as the shark ‘Baidam’ pictured here, for practical purposes. Brian Robinson

A shark in the stars: astronomy and culture in the Torres Strait

Technology has, without doubt, expanded our understanding of space. The Voyager 1 space probe is on the brink of leaving our solar system. Massive telescopes have discovered blasts of fast radio bursts…
If funding for Aboriginal artists and organisations is cut, performers like The Black Arm Band will not receive adequate support. IFACCA

Indigenous cultural policy: Creative Australia or creative accounting?

Like many others, I was pleasantly surprised by the government’s announcement last month of A$54 million in funding for Indigenous languages as part of the national cultural policy – Creative Australia…
Dugongs rely on seagrass for food - damage to grass beds is a bigger threat to the species than Indigenous hunting. sandwichgirl/Flickr

Banning Indigenous hunting won’t help dugongs

In the 1990s some international animal rights and environment organisations instigated a concerted campaign to stop the hunting of pilot whales by Faroese people living in the northeast Atlantic. The thousand-year-old…
Understanding the stingray’s significance can help us understand opposition to James Price Point gas plans. Joy VanBuhler

Beware the stingray: Indigenous heritage and WA’s gas plans

For overwhelming economic, social, cultural and environmental reasons the LNG precinct proposed for Walmadany (James Price Point) should not be built…In sum, such a project is against the national interest…
Maintaining a presence: the race is on to save images and recordings of modern indigenous history. AAP/Andrew Brownbill.

Cash-strapped archive struggles to preserve indigenous history

Australia’s flagship institute for indigenous studies has stopped giving out research grants as it diverts funding to save…
It’s time to look seriously at changing our constitution. An apology is not enough. AAP/Dave Hunt

Indigenous Australians the key to a strong Constitution

There is unfinished business in Australia, and it’s time to start a serious conversation about resolving it. We need to talk about the planned referendum on Indigenous recognition in the Australian Constitution…

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