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Rock Art

AUSTRALIA | Wednesday, 8 August 2007 | Views [1144] | Comments [1]

Rock painting

Rock painting

Kakadu National Park enjoys the rare distinction of being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site both for its flamboyant wildlife and rich vegetation, and for its unique aboriginal heritage. There are literally dozens of rock art sites throughout the park, even though just two are opened to tourists. Because rock art is a spiritual, cultural and sometimes magical thing, aboriginal people don’t want sacred sites to be opened. But what you can see at Ubirr and Nourlangie is already quite impressive.

It’s a common thing to paint over someone else’s work, so the first impression I got from this ancestral form of expression is a confused one. Several layers of paintings, with the older ones appearing beneath the newer ones made me wonder if I wasn’t looking at nephews and nieces’ drawings. It is quite different from what I have seen at the Aboriginal Art Museum in Utrecht for example, which is the contemporary style made on canvas, paper, cloth, you name it. Fortunately for an untrained eye like mine, the majority is one-layered and really outstanding. It’s mind-boggling to be face-to-face with a 15’000 year old, or 50’000 depends on who you ask, graffiti. I sincerely doubt our modern urban art, which I admire a lot, will last that long. Maybe it’s in the paint.

Five main materials were used in the paintings: haematite for red, ochre (iron-stained clay) for red/orange/yellow, limonite for yellow, pipe-clay or huntite for white and manganese oxide for black. Powdered pigments were mixed with water and applied with human hair brushes, fibrous strips of bark or feathers. Sometimes colours were blown out of the mouth around an object, mostly the hand, to create a stencil. They can be seen at Ubirr, a site nicknamed by aboriginal people sickness country. According to the legend, a creation ancestor lives here, and to disturb him will bring all kind of problems. A more rational explanation could come from the large amount of uranium in the ground.

Click here to see more pictures

Tags: ambassador van, culture

Comments

1

Very very interesting - learned a lot just from this short blog entry. Keep it coming!

  wanderyears Aug 12, 2007 11:05 PM

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