|Indigenous people inhabited Australia for at least 40,000 years
prior to European exploration. They developed hundreds of languages, as well as complex Creation myths or “Dreamings,” which
defined the actions and relationships of ancestral beings – both human and animal – to the land and to one another, and dictated
codes of conduct.
The elders passed this information to succeeding generations through elaborate ceremonies, which included singing, dancing, and story-telling, as well as visual expression in sand paintings, body painting and adornment, decoration of objects, and designs on cave walls.
It was not until the early 1970s that the Aboriginal people, the world's oldest living culture, were encouraged to share their pictorial traditions with the “outside world” by painting them on canvas. Since the first paintings were created at the remote Papunya settlement deep in the Central Desert, Aboriginal artists have continued to paint their country and their ancestral stories in strikingly contemporary fashion. Their work is increasingly recognized by art critics as one of the most important art movements of the modern world, and as one of the best values for collectors of contemporary art.
Geraldine Brooks, The New Yorker, July 28, 2003:
"Aborigines have the world's oldest continuing artistic tradition. Native Australians began painting rock walls fifty thousand years ago; early Europeans would not decorate the caves of Lascaux for another thirty-five thousand years."
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