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27 January 2018 / leggypeggy

A wonderful look at Aboriginal art

The Aboriginal Memorial

The Aboriginal Memorial

Close-up of a hollow-log coffin

Close-up of a hollow-log coffin

Yesterday, 26 January, was Australia Day. It commemorates the day the First Fleet sailed into Port Jackson in 1788, and marks the beginning of British settlement.

Not surprisingly, it is considered Invasion Day by the indigenous people whose lives were permanently and, often cruelly, changed by the arrival of these 11 ships and their cargo of about 1400 people, more than half of them transported convicts.

In recent years, there’s been growing controversy as to whether 26 January is a suitable date to celebrate an occasion that adversely affected so many.

A variety of dates have been mentioned as a possible alternative, but I doubt there will be widespread change any time soon. Some communities have decided to celebrate other days.

Hollow log ceremonial coffins

Poor John and nephew, Tom, explore the ‘field’ of hollow-log coffins

In support of our indigenous population, Triple J, a popular national radio station, has changed the day they release their annual Hottest 100 album. The tracks, chosen by public vote, used to be aired on the 26th, but this year Triple J is playing the winning 100 tracks on the 27th. In fact, I’m listening to the countdown now. It’s on song 40, True Lovers by Holy Holy.

So I thought I’d mark today (the 27th) by sharing some of the amazing Indigenous artworks in our National Gallery. Almost 10 years ago, the building was renovated to create a new entrance and to significantly increase display space, particularly for the collection of Australian Indigenous art. It is said to be the largest such collection in the world.

Let’s start with the first exhibit (shown at the top) you see when you enter by the not-so-new entrance on the ground floor—The Aboriginal Memorial, an installation of 200 hollow log ceremonial coffins from Central Arnhem Land. The work was created for the gallery to mark the Bicentenary of Australia, which marked 200 years of European settlement—hence 200 hollow log coffins.

The work was conceived by two Aboriginal people and created by 43 Aboriginal artists. It was commissioned by the gallery and initially shown at the Biennale of Sydney in 1988. It was then moved to Canberra for permanent display.

An explanation card at the gallery says ‘The Aboriginal Memorial marks an important time in the history of Australian society. While it is intended as a war memorial, it is also a historical statement, a testimony to the resilience of the Aboriginal people and culture in the face of great odds, and a legacy for future generations of Australians.’ Another card lists all the participating artists.

Mt Hermannsburg by Elton Wirri

Mt Hermannsburg by Elton Wirri

Then it’s time to head upstairs to see the varied collections.

One of the first items is the fish trap. The gallery also commissioned this 12-metre-long piece. It’s a contemporary representation of a fish trap from the Maningrida Aboriginal community.

Then come the pieces from early Western Desert (1971–74). These cover textiles, paintings and ceramics.

Fish Trap

Fish Trap fabricated by Urban Art Projects, Queensland

Seven sisters by Ken Tjungkara

Seven sisters by Ken Tjungkara

A small gallery is devoted almost entirely to works by Albert Namatjira and his fellow artists from Hermannsburg. Namatjira’s  landscapes highlighted the rugged geological features of the land in the background, and the distinctive Australian flora in the foreground with very old, stately and majestic white gum trees surrounded by twisted scrub.

His colours were similar to the ochres that his ancestors had used to depict the same landscape, but his style was appreciated by Europeans because it met the aesthetics of western art.

Then it’s on to a couple of other rooms with an array of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander works. As I look back through the gallery pics I took during 2017, I find that some of my favourite pieces were photographed in earlier years and are on a different computer, so I’ll do another post on them. Maybe next year on 27 January.

In the meantime, I hope you like these images. I have lots more to share. I’ll finish off today with two images that reflect how our Aboriginal citizens have been treated. As you can see, they were featured in countless ashtrays.

Close up of Ash on Me

Close up of Ash on Me

Ash on Me by Tony Albert

Ash on Me by Tony Albert




Leave a Comment
  1. ksbeth / Jan 27 2018 11:18 pm

    what amazing artwork –

    Liked by 3 people

  2. paolsoren / Jan 27 2018 11:27 pm

    Thanks Peggy. I was wondering what to say about Australia day but I’m glad I hesitated – You have done us all proud.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. beetleypete / Jan 27 2018 11:30 pm

    Some wonderful examples there, Peggy. I love the images of animals on Aboriginal art.
    There was a big report here on the BBC about the ‘Invasion Day’ protests. I never understood why they didn’t use January 1st, as this was the date Australia became a separate nation, in 1901.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 5 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 28 2018 9:29 am

      January 1 would have made sense. There’s a push here for May 8, because said quickly it sounds like Mate, We’ll see what happens and, more importantly, when.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. jeanleesworld / Jan 27 2018 11:53 pm

    I love the way art reaches across oceans to touch upon our perceptions. A blessed Australia Day, my friend! 🙂 xxxxxxxxx

    Liked by 3 people

  5. theunassuminghiker / Jan 28 2018 12:16 am

    Wow, stunning!!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. trE / Jan 28 2018 12:28 am

    I am happy that you shared some history along with the photos, especially since it’s not the easiest of topics. Beautiful captures.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Anthony / Jan 28 2018 12:43 am

    Recently Canada offered a full apology to the aboriginal people of Canada. Of course, I could dissect the political reasons for this. Instead, I just think it was about time.
    I enjoyed your article. I also enjoyed the Punk Philatelist post (please check her out) which talked about this “difficult” day in terms of postage stamps.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 28 2018 9:38 am

      Thanks for pointing me to the Punk Philatelist. Great read there. Australia has formally apologised to her indigenous people, but we need to go way beyond words.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. VictorsCorner / Jan 28 2018 2:24 am

    Art is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
    I got to know about Australian Day just last night on the news when it featured Australians in my country celebrating the day. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 28 2018 12:39 pm

      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment.


  9. Gilles Labruyère / Jan 28 2018 2:50 am

    Gorgeous art, Peggy. Many thanks to bring this to us.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Laurie Decker / Jan 28 2018 4:39 am

    Thank you for expanding my education. I’m going to spend time reading more about this.

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 28 2018 10:23 am

      That will keep you busy. It’s a large and controversial subject.


  11. Snapshotsincursive / Jan 28 2018 5:07 am

    How beautiful. I have such respect for cultural art. 👁👁

    Liked by 3 people

  12. almeidadepaulo / Jan 28 2018 5:30 am

    So beautiful Peggy!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. lexklein / Jan 28 2018 6:00 am

    I thought those first pics were of didgeridoos – I don’t totally understand how something so narrow could be a coffin. Whatever they are, they are beautiful works of art. The patterns remind me of the dreamtime paintings we so admired in Australia, with their little dots, animal motifs, and wonderful colors and patterns overall.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. gerard oosterman / Jan 28 2018 10:33 am

    A great post, Peggy. Good for JJJ to make the 27th in releasing the top 100. I remember seeing many of those aboriginal memorial poles in Canberra’s National art gallery. I think they were shown in an outside area. Isn’t the Seven sisters by Ken Tjungkara a stunning work of art?

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 28 2018 11:52 am

      If you have the chance, go to the National Museum to see the amazing Seven Sisters exhibit. It’s on until 28 February.


  15. Vicki / Jan 28 2018 11:00 am

    Personally, I don’t think they should change Australia Day. It’s my Birthday and no one would ever remember my Birthday, (including me) if it got changed 🙂

    But seriously, there are days of celebration & public holidays for everything, good, bad and many which I can’t relate to. These days most Australians wouldn’t have the slightest clue why we have a public holiday on the 26th January, they just have the day off work and enjoy getting together and having fun.

    In present-day Australia, celebrations reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history, official community awards and citizenship ceremonies welcoming new members of the Australian community.

    History can’t change the day that the first fleet arrived in to Port Jackson, New South Wales and the raising of the British Flag.

    But we can change the way we think about the past and acknowledge the cruel treatment of the indigenous people of this vast country back in 1788 and the early years. We can acknowledge the impact that white colonisation made on the landscape and the detrimental effect on the natural environment.

    We can’t change the past, but we can make a better future and give the Australian indigenous population more help, particularly in regards to education in the outback and job opportunities. Health and Housing also spring to mind.

    We now have NAIDOC week held in the first week of July, historically celebrated as National Aboriginal Day. It is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and society.

    Should we change that week too?

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 28 2018 11:56 am

      Making a better future is going to take a long time an require more sensible thinking. I used to do a lot of work with the federal department that looked after education. Public servants were posted to outback Australia for five to six months at a time. The Aboriginal people there complained, and rightly so, that no one ever stayed long enough to really figure out what needed to be done.
      P.S. I promise to remember your birthday!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Curt Mekemson / Jan 28 2018 11:03 am

    I like the art very much, Peggy. It’s beautiful and has a power rarely seen in more modern works. There are several museums in America and Canada that feature Native American and First Nation art, as well as aboriginal art from other areas. I always make a point of visiting. Thank you for you post. And please include more. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Alison and Don / Jan 28 2018 12:00 pm

    I love the National Gallery and have been there several times. The Aboriginal Memorial is so powerful. I have a little Albert Namatjira on my bedroom wall.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Dymoon / Jan 28 2018 12:59 pm

    great photos, I enjoyed the presentation.. interesting indeed =^_^=

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 28 2018 1:47 pm

      Thanks so much. I like your sign-off. Very cute.


  19. The Whitechapel Whelk / Jan 28 2018 6:07 pm

    Ah yes, Aboriginal Art. Nice fella but rather prone to bolt his food if memory serves

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Anita / Jan 29 2018 1:24 am

    These artwork are very amazing, thank you so much for good sharing

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 29 2018 11:58 am

      You are most welcome. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.


  21. derrickjknight / Jan 29 2018 1:29 am

    A fascinating tour

    Liked by 1 person

  22. onecreativefamily / Jan 29 2018 3:16 am

    Beautiful art work

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Sherry Thomas / Jan 29 2018 3:22 am

    Great article. How are you and John

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Catnip Blog / Jan 29 2018 8:07 am

    Fabulous art work. I’m looking forward to the next installment!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 29 2018 12:00 pm

      I think I’d better hurry up. January 27 next year is too far away.


  25. Crystal Stewart / Jan 29 2018 9:01 am

    What great and interesting artwork.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Crystal Stewart / Jan 29 2018 9:03 am

    I liked so much I shared on G+.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Chris Riley / Jan 29 2018 9:43 am

    A well thought out post Peggy. Loved those coffins, but yes, I too was wondering how on earth they work. Loved your soft and caring way of speaking about a topic that’s sure to raise a bit of controversy. I’m happy for the day to celebrated on whatever date’s chosen. That can be Jan 1st, or M-eight, or as is on 26 Jan. I’m not native to this country, but I’m proud to call Australia home. We love to think of ourselves as multi-cultural, and that’s what I’d like to see celebrated. I’d love to see our indigenous population, along with women in burkas, Italians, Greeks, Vietnamese, white Australian men in budgie smugglers, and scantily clad women (both fat and thin) in poker dot bikinis all sober, with linked arms dancing on Australian beaches all around the country. Whatever date we celebrate I’d like it to be a celebration of the intention that we can all move together in peace and harmony regardless of our skin colour, or the clothes we wear. I’d love to see us displaying, and celebrating a genuine tolerance of our differences. But that’s the idealist in me – the realist says it’s not going to happen, not in my life time anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 29 2018 12:06 pm

      Thanks so much Chris for such a beautiful comment. It took me all day to compose the post. You and I are in the same situation—not native to Australia, but ever so grateful to call it home. If you ever have the chance to come to Canberra in February, we have the annual Multicultural Festival. It’s wonderful to see all the native clothing and sample the various cuisines. The hard part is deciding which talent to watch and which food to buy.

      By the way, these coffins are ceremonial, so I guess they aren’t supposed to ‘work’.


  28. amindfultravellerblog / Jan 29 2018 11:48 pm

    So talented Peggy. I remember watching a demonstration a few years ago at a school event. Very meticulous with those dot paintings. Awesome work. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Jacqui Murray / Jan 30 2018 2:19 am

    Love this. Thanks for sharing these images.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 30 2018 3:23 pm

      My pleasure. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.


  30. Brian Lageose / Jan 30 2018 5:09 am

    Entranced, once again!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. simpletravelourway / Jan 30 2018 10:57 am

    Our one regret after visiting Australia? Not buying one of the many beautiful pieces of Aboriginal art that we looked at while we were there.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. lovetotsy / Jan 30 2018 2:29 pm

    I’ve taught about their amazing work and tie in the history of aborigines.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 30 2018 4:20 pm

      That’s wonderful. I’m so glad you are spreading the knowledge.


  33. chattykerry / Jan 31 2018 1:15 am

    Like so many other countries, the indigenous people have suffered. It is wonderful to see their art and feel how different their perspective of life is. We have much to learn from them, Fantastic photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 31 2018 7:54 am

      It frustrates me how much we don’t listen to the perspective of our indigenous populations—even when we’ve asked for their opinions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • chattykerry / Feb 1 2018 1:17 am

        Many of us are unable to comprehend concepts such as sharing (with the earth and each other) and that material possessions are just that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Feb 1 2018 11:14 pm

        So true.


  34. Phil Huston / Jan 31 2018 6:48 am

    Once again, from the corners of the Earth, Aboriginal pottery and the work of the Navajo and Pueblo, all the desert Southwest tribes, are strikingly similar. Totems and stories. However the “Seven SIsters” painting is unique AND mind blowing. I grew up in the middle of all that and for my money instead of trying to eradicate them, we should have listened.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 31 2018 7:55 am

      Stay tuned. Our National Museum of Australia has a current exhibit of ‘Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters’. I’ll make my next post about that.

      Liked by 1 person

  35. adventuredawgs / Feb 1 2018 10:28 am

    Wonderful photos and a lovely post. I’ve always enjoyed the artwork of Aboriginal artisans. Those coffins are fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Sy S. / Feb 1 2018 2:56 pm

    Very nice artwork created by the Australian Aboriginals… colorful and beautiful! I recently visited several times in NYC the American Museum of National History and they have a section of artwork from the South Pacific… I have to go back and see if there were also displayed Aboriginal artwork from Australia… However, your post is wonderful and learning about native artwork in your country.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Feb 1 2018 8:41 pm

      Thanks Sy, it will be interesting to know if the South Pacific section does include any Aboriginal pieces.


    • Sy S. / Feb 6 2018 1:45 pm

      Googling saw that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, had an exhibition but ended in December 2017;
      >>This exhibition features six spectacular works of contemporary art by leading Australian Aboriginal artists.<<
      Perhaps there will be other exhibitions of Aboriginal Art in the future… However, this posted blog,
      really is fantastic… Thanks Peggy.



      • leggypeggy / Feb 6 2018 9:21 pm

        Thanks so much for that link. Glad you liked this post and hope you’ll stay tuned for a few more along the same line.


  37. kkessler833 / Feb 3 2018 11:48 am

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Sheryl / Feb 3 2018 1:16 pm

    The Aboriginal art is wonderful . I especially liked the “field.” The hollow-log coffins are very different from anything that I’ve ever seen before.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Feb 3 2018 4:36 pm

      The ‘field’ of coffins is one of my favourite ‘pieces’ in the whole gallery.


  39. Cecilia / Feb 7 2018 8:11 am

    Absolutely stunning art work, well worth being seen by many! Thank you for the inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

  40. America On Coffee / Feb 8 2018 5:40 pm

    So exciting! Fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Forestwood / Feb 9 2018 1:17 pm

    A lovely tribute Peggy! I am sure we had prints of the Wirri painting in our childhood home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Feb 9 2018 1:51 pm

      Thanks Amanda, more Aboriginal art is on the way. Maybe today or tomorrow.

      Liked by 1 person

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