INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIAN ART…songlines of country


Published: February 11th 2024

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'Mimi Spirits' by Eddie Blitner'Mimi Spirits' by Eddie Blitner‘Mimi Spirits’ by Eddie Blitner

I am not indigenous by blood, yet I am Aussie through and through.

How is it that indigenous art from a culture that has inhabited our sunburnt country for 40,000 to 60,000 years fascinates and grabs my soul so profoundly?

I look into the Shailyn Peris Bungle Bungles “Purnululu” hanging above my screen monitor and drift into its allure…into ancient country that I have trekked in the physical and the spirits of the Dreamtime inhabit.

But as a white man I am not supposed to have any place in the Dreamtime.

Yet I enter that spiritual realm and am welcomed to take my place around the campfires where we become one.

Where art overcomes prejudice and indigenous culture becomes the baton that may not be passed to me by right…but I take hold of nevertheless…and embrace.

Dr Nicholas Vlahagiannis of University of Melbourne describes,

“The core of the ‘Dreamtime’ or an individual’s ‘Dreaming” is a rich body of mythology which explains the world past and present to the Aborigine. ‘Dreaming’ merges with ‘Dreamtime’ and together encompasses the Aboriginal cosmology and history, maps out the physical and metaphysical landscapes of every aspect of

 "Purnululu" by Shailyn Peris "Purnululu" by Shailyn Peris “Purnululu” by Shailyn Peris

One of my purchases from Warman

the land and nature and serves as a system of beliefs controlling religious beliefs, rituals and social behaviour and customs. It intimately and inseparably links every Aborigine to their country or territory which although localised in their perception and representation, in their very essence has been and continues to be recorded and passed down through countless generations through storytelling and song, religious ceremonies and dances such as corroborees and the world’s longest tradition of artistic expression, rock and bark paintings, rock and wood carving and screen printing throughout Australia.”

Everyone has a unique dreaming, an inner understanding of existence that overlap to create a vast web of tracks over the land.

Some say that the Ancestors sang as they made their way over the land. The paths they made are known as ‘Songlines’ or dreaming tracks.

Without a written language, painting, storytelling and song were the only ways that history and religion of a tribe could be passed down to future generations.

Our recent travels into the Kimberleys exploring rock art and purchasing original artworks that now hang in our home are constant reminders of our connection to country…whether by right or by

'Borlokko' by Trevor Yganjmirra'Borlokko' by Trevor Yganjmirra‘Borlokko’ by Trevor Yganjmirra

My first indigenous Art purchase

just being there.


Where it all began

In our twenties, Denise and I driving north to Queensland…stopped near Wauchope…an indigenous group selling bark paintings by the side of the road.

A bark painting “Borlokko” by Trevor Yganjmirra of Clan Djalama from Arnhem Land in Northern Territory became my first indigenous artwork.

Framed and adorning the walls of my office became its destiny and songline…its tracks enuring my soul.

Thereafter my only contact was in exhibitions in galleries as Indigenous Art captured the World’s imagination and was priced out of reach for this humble dancer.


Years pass to June 2023…Jessica and Danny of Kimberley Wild leading 19 Australians and 1 from Ireland into the remote Kimberleys in NW Western Australia…“massaged” by the remote Gibb River Road with one million bumps and many wonders.

Campfires…plethoras of stars…trekking and scrambling…swimming in billabongs and under waterfalls…red dirt…vivid blue skies…indigenous rock art sites…ancient, ancient vistas.

One cannot escape the majesty of the natural world…indigenous culture enchanting us by surprise…nuances of colour unique to these parts…kinda spiritual…all consuming.

Indigenous art on ceremonial rocks and canvas…embracing country where ancient Songlines or Dreaming Tracks awaiting

 Two Echidnas by Steven Jabaljarri Sutton Two Echidnas by Steven Jabaljarri Sutton Two Echidnas by Steven Jabaljarri Sutton

One of my purchases from Kulunurra

discovery and awe when on show.


Purchasing artworks kinda crept up like the Screaming Jay Hawkins’ tune “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” (love that song). Took a while for “Shoulda”…probably just as well, as impulse buying can lead to me buying ‘crap’.

“Rectifying my Regret” rarely attainable.

Impulse buying like approaching the edge of a gorge or cliff…can fall in if I don’t look before I leap.

Since the ‘crap’ I bought in Malacca many years ago still causing mirth of my companions, I feign caution!

Yet I still bought “the World’s Most Expensive Doll” in Russia after seeing the Fairytale Book it came with was “only 10 bucks”.

Do I never learn?

Look at the price before you leap, David…Doh!!!

Entering the Indigenous Artworld in the Kimberley.

First temptation at Norval Gallery in Derby. Resident artist Mark Norval with heaps of Wandjinas, inspirational portraits and other artworks. An indigenous woman with her latest painting that Mark was examining… tempting my eyes that way.

The Lonely Planet Australian Travel Guide for 2012 rated Norval Gallery as one of its “Top 60top choice must see” destinations

Rory GallagherRory GallagherRory Gallagher

Australia wide.

When I discovered Mark’s assistant, Ray had played with my favourite Blues guitarist, the late Rory Gallagher in Ireland, I was distracted.

Saw the Rory Gallagher LPs in a milk crate some of which I did not have…yep very distracted.

No thought to enquire the prices of paintings now.

He’s the guy that when Jimi Hendrix was asked, “How does it feel being the best guitarist in the World”, Jimi said, ” I don’t know. You should ask Rory Gallagher”.

First saw Rory in Concert in the early 1970s following his “Live in Europe” LP…took my later girlfriend Denise the next time he visited Oz ‘cos ‘Gotta give a girl a good time’.

Rory died in a motor accident in 1994, so sadly only his records and the occasional T-shirt at music festivals…Ahhhh.

The Irish renamed Cork Airport after him and now put on annual Rory Gallagher Festivals at Ballyshannon that we booked and pre-paid to attend but had to cancel and give away our tickets due to work commitments.

“Always a next time” been saying since then.

More like “Once missed, forever missed”…like that fancy rug I didn’t

"Wandjina Bush Potato" by Samantha Wungundin Allies"Wandjina Bush Potato" by Samantha Wungundin Allies“Wandjina Bush Potato” by Samantha Wungundin Allies

buy in Armenia ‘cos we were passing out as it was too damned hot!!!

Raincheck Norval…no itchy wallet yet.

Not tempted again until our companions were squaffing scones, jam & cream at Elderslie Station…a massive cattle station which started making and selling scones to tourists to save from financial ruin…now employing ten folk to make 4,000 scones a week…”Make more money from the scones than cattle”, he says!!!

This dancer more interested in artworks on the wall near the till…“How much is that one?”

“Too good to pass up. For that price I gotta get it!”

And that’s how I bought “Wandjina Mungunda (Bush Potato)” by Samantha Wungundin Allies…now in a floating frame over my bed next to “Mimi Spirits” (my opening photo) by Eddie Blitner …Stunning.

Polly sees me and wanders up…buying the larger painting next to mine. Nice One. Probably shares pride of place at Fuzzy & Polly’s…Oh yeh!

Warmun Art Gallery

The Kimberley has Rock Art sites that are too good not to have their separate blog later.

So I now share where 3 of the women in our group helped me overcome any reluctance to

Rainbow Serpent by Carol JuliRainbow Serpent by Carol JuliRainbow Serpent by Carol Juli

One of my purchases from Warman

open my wallet – Anne, Kate and Denise.

Thank you ladies!!!

We enter the indigenous settlement of Warmun 200 kms south of Kununurra…murals on school and house walls.

Pull up outside the Warmun Art Gallery. While the other pile in, I am more interested in the Green tree frog outside.

When I do enter, there are white walls and corridors with neat rows of indigenous artworks that were quite different in style to those seen previously.

While previous mostly in acrylic on canvas…here they are abstract scenes in ochres and pigments from the regions of origin of the artists.

Like entering a country where one does not speak the local tongue or dialect…takes a while to get used to embracing the culture.

And that’s where Anne and Kate step in.

Anne is a retired Curator of the New South Wales Art Gallery who has been here before arranging Exhibitions and meeting artists.

Married to Peter, a Curator of historical museums who shares our love of West African blues.

Kate is a commercial artist who has been wandering around Kimberley Galleries with Denise and I discussing artworks and what she likes

Norval Gallery in Derby WANorval Gallery in Derby WANorval Gallery in Derby WA

and why.

Saying she is looking forward to seeing my woodcarvings I was exhibiting from a previous obsession.

Their expertise and advice encouraging me to reach for my pocket.

I pick a brooding Bungle Bungles pic that has only arrived in the Gallery that morning, “Purnululu” by Shailyn Peris born in Kununurra W.A., Totem Ngarrangarni (Brolga, sand frog, blue tongue lizard), Gija Country, Language Daguragu, a granddaughter of senior artist, Jock Mosquito.

And a striking “Gurlabal Ngarrangarni (Rainbow Serpent)” by Carol Juli, of Skin Nangala, Totem Ngarrangarni, Gija Country, Language Kriol, a granddaughter of the renowned Mabel Juli jumping from the walls of paintings as if saying, “Pick me, pick me.”

Gurlabal protects the waterways near Warmun. He found water in the Springvale River, rolled on his back because he overheated, and turned to stone.

The painting depicts his spinal bones among the waterways.

I ask the ladies for advice and they both critique and express approval.

Thank you for your expertise and advice…can’t thank you enough.

Denise giving the go-ahead, “This trip is your birthday present…up to you how many birthday presents you wish to buy for yourself. Go

Mark Norval MasterpieceMark Norval MasterpieceMark Norval Masterpiece

for it.”

The prices were very affordable, so I pay for both to be specially shipped to our home in Sydney…carefully packed as in ochre they will crack if rolled.


Inspired by Indigenous Artwork of the Kimberley, so why not buy more?

We travel for memories, artworks on our walls always a valuable reminder.

“Two Echidnas” by Steven Jabaljarri Sutton born Darwin, N.T, Skin: Jawown…dot painting style of Roper River Region of Northern Territory…small acrylic on canvas for ridiculously low price in Kununurra W.A.

Three signed prints by Judy Prosser “Desert Runner”, “Storm Dancers” and “Bushfire Sprite” in Broome that for $95 each were a steal as would be $15,000 each if originals.

Mimi Spirits by Eddie Blitner, Master carver and painter born Katherine, N.T, Clan Barbil, from Naiyalrindji country of the Roper River 270 kms SE of Katherine.

Sought advice from Anne & Kate how best to frame it…can’t thank them enough…now in a large floating frame over my bed. Magnificent.

Mimis are tiny spirits that inhabit huge boulders by day and emerge at night to hunt and hold ceremonies, returning at dawn pulling the rock doors

Halls CreekHalls CreekHalls Creek

of their homes shut after them. In the Dreamtime they taught the medicine men may skills including hunting, weaving, fishing, painting, songs and dance so they could pass them onto the elders of the tribe to teach others.

But why stop there? Tommy Crow’s “Sunset Dreaming” (my opening Panorama) at the framer’s as I speak.

Relax & Enjoy,

Dancing Dave


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#INDIGENOUS #AUSTRALIAN #ARTsonglines #country

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