Indigenous Australian art represents the world’s oldest living art tradition. It shows the artists’ deep and indelible sense of place, which is inseparable from their identity. The artist is the land he or she paints: a painting is on one level a self-portrait.
Indigenous Australia is comprised of many different peoples speaking a mix of dialects and languages. Its dynamic forms of artistic expression make it impossible to generalise from one cultural group, art style, community or region to another.
Despite this complex diversity, Aboriginal people from as many as 250 distinct language groups share a fundamental belief in what has been translated as the ‘Dreaming’, meaning eternal law and the foundations of being. It also refers to a creation period when ancestral beings or Dreamings travelled across and became the land infusing it with their sacred essence. They created its natural features, plants and animals, as well as the different Indigenous groups, giving them their languages, specific tracts of land, ceremonies, sacred law and designs.