What’s with the dots?

While we were at Uluru we joined a dot painting workshop. The workshop was organised by an Aboriginal owned operator Anangu. We had seen many examples of Aboriginal art however these remained an intriguing closed book for us…

During the workshop we gained a bit more insight into what dot paintings represent. Aboriginal art mainly tells stories using (at least in the central desert area) symbolic representations of places, people, tools, spears, animals, plants, etc*. Although the symbols used can represent multiple things and therefore interpretation of a painting can be difficult without the original story. The dots are just a style of painting… Dot pointing was only ‘invented’ in the 1970s in the Uluru area, by a teacher that encouraged artists to develop their own distinctive style.

The workshop was conducted by an Aboriginal elder. A lovely lady called Elsie who was assisted by an interpreter as she mainly speaks Aboriginal (although she understands English very well). At the start of the workshop a number of Dreamtime creation stories from the region were drawn in the red sand. The same way as used for 1000s of years when teaching. After these examples we were invited to share a story by creating our own dot painting.

The first picture below is a story from Elsie about a woman who is hungry and therefore hunts lizards**. The second picture is Mathilde’s story about how we arrived in Uluru and the third is mine that reflects the journey we started last year by coming to Oz and the journey ahead.

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Elsie’s painting
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Mathilde’s story
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Christof’s story

At the end of the workshop everyone was asked to show their painting and share their story. We found the workshop very enlightening regarding dot paintings, it was very interesting to see the different paintings (and stories behind them) and we would highly recommend this for both adults and children.
*) for example concentric circles can represent a place or waterhole, U-shapes represent people, tracks can represent animals (or people or Dreamtime ‘gods’), a (digging) stick as in the first picture next to a U-shape represents a woman
**) hunting small animals is in Aboriginal Law a woman’s activity

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