Art, Languages, and Literature

Travel this ancient landscape and visit some of the world’s most ancient and spectacular art sites featuring libraries of rock engravings and peckings (petroglyphs), dating back thousands of years as well as a vast array of diverse painting styles from the highly abstract to elegantly naturalistic.

Just one example are the elegant Gwion Gwion (Bradshaw) paintings in Western Australia’s remote Kimberley region that fascinate all who see them. They represent some of the most ornamented and naturalistic figures in Aboriginal rock art.

Aboriginal Australia has developed as a network of separate, independent “nations” distinguished by 250 Language groups and over 700 dialects. This makes Aboriginal Australia one of the most linguistically diverse places on earth.

Australia’s Indigenous population is made up of Aboriginal people of the mainland and Torres Strait Islands, which are part of the State of Queensland. The Torres Strait Islanders are Melanesians, and regarded as being distinct from other Aboriginal peoples of Australia.

Uptuyu Aboriginal Adventures, West Kimberley, WATorres Strait Islanders come from the islands of the Torres Strait between the tip of Cape York in Queensland and Papua New Guinea and have many cultural similarities with the people of Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.

Just like their many languages, Aboriginal art varies from language group to language group, from the cross hatching on bark in Arnhem Land to the contemporary dot painting on canvas in the Western Desert and modern urban expressions as optimised in photographic exhibitions, sculpture and new media.

The Australian landscape offers an outdoor gallery of ancient art and storytelling dating back over 50,000 years. Often preserved within national parks, take the time to view ancient rock engravings and paintings and explore magnificent bush at the same time.

Kooljaman, Cape Leveque, WAAboriginal people traditionally shared their culture, stories and history through mediums such as song, dance and art. Aboriginal authors began using literature as early as the eighteenth century and we now have many award winning literary works written by Aboriginal people including biographies, stories and poems. Aboriginal literature can give a unique and enriching insight into the local landscape and culture. To find out more:

  • Some publishing houses, for example, Magabala Books (see www.magabala.com) in Broome, have a shop front where you can drop in to view their range of inspiring books.
  • Aboriginal Studies Press (ASP) is the publishing arm of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). The publish up to ten new titles annually and choose outstanding writing that promotes an understanding of Aboriginal cultures. See their website for more information or to link to a site to order books online at www.aiatsis.gov.au/asp/welcome.html.
  • BlackWords is a AustLit research project that details the lives and work of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers. Their website www.austlit.edu.au/specialistDatasets/BlackWords offers links to a range of major Australian publishers of Aboriginal writers.

Find details on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Centres, Galleries and Art Centres .