Ancient pulsing lands

Aboriginal dream-time comes to florence

Margreta Guarnieri
February 9, 2006

Aboriginal Australian Art has a universal theme: dreaming. This concept permeatesAboriginal culture, from ritual to contemporary art. The term refers to the time of creation when Aboriginal people and all of Nature came to be as they are: eternally interconnected with supernatural ancestors who impregnated the world they created with their power. Before they went back to their eternal sleep, into the ground or into rocks and trees, these ancestors made designs and ceremonies, they marked the land with symbols and signs and made Aborigines eternal guardians of it. In this manner, a mythical past has been carried forward into the present and future as a living reality.


Aborigines thus became witnesses of this “Dream-time,” and only recently began to record on canvas ceremonial stories which for thousands of years had been exclusively drawn on their bodies and on the ground. It is a kind of a mosaic which maps Australia, and each artist is entrusted with some segment of it. For as much as this art may appear abstract, it always has a narrative meaning, a hidden underlying flow of songs, dances and rites which tell the stories of the journeys of their forefathers, the places where they camped, fought and loved: “song lines” drawn along sacred tracks handed down from generation to generation. So, Aboriginal Art is not all about dots and circles: their obsessive intricacy, the maze patterns, the lyrical lines, the daring blend of colours expressing mystic spirituality or aggressive sensuality are, in fact, meantdeliberately to dazzle the senses to inspire the power and mystery of Dreaming.


“It is not art, it is my story,” one artist says, and now he will come to Florence to tell it in the forthcoming exhibition scheduled at Palagio di Parte Guelfa from February 24 until March 6.Antica Terra Pulsante, Ancient Pulsing Land will be on show by invitation of the Comune di Firenze; it is the first exhibition ever held outside the Pilbara boundaries, in the presence of the artists themselves, who will be accompanied by the Shire’s officials. Florentine Councillor Eugenio Giani is promoting this culturally important event of great relevance, sponsored by theAgreement of Understanding between Western Australia and Tuscany. “In the spirit of friendship and co-operation between Italy and Australia, I am confident that this event will increase, to mutual cultural benefit, the spiritual bond among people of different heritage,” Mr Giani says, “Only knowledge generates understanding, appreciation and tolerance which leads to friendship and true co-operation.”


In this extraordinary exhibition, Aborigines are simply following their own footprints, “when the earth was soft” as they call Dreaming in the Pilbara region, one of the richest areas of Aboriginal art. Recognising the value and importance of expressing cultural and social progress, the Shire of Roebourne gave the local Aboriginal community use ofa restored building in the historical town of Cossack, which is now a booming and creative artistic laboratory. Here, members of the Ngarluma and Indjibandi communities gathered to paint under the guidance of a co-ordinator who acts as art teacher, mediator and committed companion. From cave to canvas, old stories develop by brush, ancient symbols carved on rocks take shape in painting, mythological animals come back to life in amazing colours; they are the same ones that populated the land, where the Aborigines trace their roots back 30,000 years.


Shire president Danielle Nazzari comments on the Florentine exhibition, “I am glad that the efforts of the Aboriginal people combined with those of industries and local and state government can create positive and meaningful milestones for everyone, as proved by this event.” The Pilbara region, mostly known for its exploitable resources, especially iron ore and natural gas, will hopefully come to be recognised for its sweeping scenic grandeur, its rich cultural past and its alive and kicking present: the tide is finally beginning to turn for 5.000 Aboriginal people in the Pilbara. And Tuscany is helping to make waves.


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