Symbolic stories

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By Jane Bowerconsultant to primary schools in art, drama, dance and literacy

Investigate how Aboriginal people use natural materials to express their culture and beliefs through art

To the Aboriginal people, their paintings are far more than something designed to be visually attractive. In English, their paintings are known as Dreamings, though this is only an approximate translation, as there is no equivalent English word for what the paintings represent. The Aborigines’ existence since creation, all that is known and understood, the essence of their being even inside the womb, is what their Dreamings encompass.

The work is characterised by hundreds of dots surrounding shapes with a symbolic meaning, some of which are explained here. The following two activities are designed to use different skills and deliberately explore opposing viewpoints of Aboriginal art: the first to lead children to a sensitive understanding of the symbols, and the second to confront the reality of Aboriginal art as a tourist attraction.

Further activities by Jane Bower on Aboriginal art can be found in Junior Education November 2005 and in her book Practical Creativity at Key Stages 1 and 2 (Routledge, £17.99 PB).

Ages 7-9

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