Shivani Shikha Section: 8:00 AM
Cultures in Context: Indigenous Australia Assignment: Essay 2
Professor Fred Meyers November 14th, 2017
Value of Art
While art, upon a cursory glance, may be praised entirely due its aesthetic value or the sheer level of creativity, it’s true significance can only be realized once we grasp the social context in which the art was created. To internalize the value of any work as an art requires that we go beyond it to the value of the culture that produced it. The creative force behind Aboriginal art, aiming to capture various facets of the indigenous society, while striving to maintain a connection with the Dreamtime, has shaped a variety of expressive art in different mediums such as paintings, rituals, body designs, etc, all of which have been inspired by prefigured social tenets and principles. Aboriginal art, in and of itself, along with its evolution through colonialism has been a by-product of social dynamics and functions within the indigenous Australian society. Through Howard Morphy’s recount of distinct interpretations of Aboriginal Art in the form of paintings and rituals, we can gain a more profound and sincere understanding of the social framework that underpinned the Indigenous peoples’ lifestyles.
The spiritual and ancestral belief in the Dreamtime is a central tenet that underlies a large portion of the Aboriginal art. As the Dreamtime refers “to origins and powers that are located in place and things,” a lot of the Aboriginal artwork is a reflection of the landscape that was formed as a “byproduct of ancestral action” and “...the transformation of ancestral beings’ bodies” (Morphy, 1952, 69-70). The intricacies within the landscape, are believed, to have mirrored the social interactions and events of the ancestral beings. As described by Morphy, as the ancestors had great battles, the hills formed in the shape of their bodies as they died. Or lakes formed from pools of their blood, and overtime, “as long as the ancestral beings lived on the surface of the earth they modified its form little by little” (Morphy, 1952, 69-70). These spiritual forces of the past, considered to “be permanently incarnate in the land,” resulted in art forms that exhibit instilled Aboriginal values of continuity in time and space and the omnipresent link between the dead and the alive (Morphy, 1952, 71). We can see this such a belief captured brilliantly in the painting Maurayana, by David Malangi, which centrally represents a hollow-log coffin, containing bones of the dead. Emerging over the coffin and subtly integrating in with the background of the forest, the figure “Murayana” functions as a spirit that “provides company for the dead and moves between the world of the living and the spirit world that underlies it.” The leaves of the painting touch the body, further reinforcing a sensation of continuity between the “present and the ancestral past,” “the living and the dead” (Morphy, 1952,...