Aboriginal Symbols Glossary | Central Art Aboriginal Art Store (2022)

Many of the symbols used by Aboriginal artists are a variation of lines or dots. Similar symbols can have multiple meanings according to the art region and the elaborate combination of these can tell complex Dreamtime stories.

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Aboriginal Symbols Glossary | Central Art Aboriginal Art Store (1)

Aboriginal Symbols and their Meanings

Many of the symbols used by Aboriginal artists are a variation of lines or dots. Similar symbols can have multiple meanings according to the art region and the elaborate combination of these can tell complex Dreamtime stories.

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Aboriginal Symbols Glossary | Central Art Aboriginal Art Store (2)

Animal Tracks

This symbol represents the tracks of a dingo, which is an Australian native dog.

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Aboriginal Symbols Glossary | Central Art Aboriginal Art Store (3)

Ants, Fruits, Flowers or Eggs

These circles have multiple interpretations: ants (honey ants), fruits, flowers or eggs. These are gathered by Australian Aboriginal women as a food source or used as a bush medicine.

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Boomerang

The boomerang is used by Australian Aboriginal men as hunting or fighting weapons, for digging, as cutting knives for making fire by friction and as percussion instrument in ceremonies.

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Hunting Boomerang

The hunting boomerang is hand crafted by the Australian Aboriginal men into the shape of the number seven (7). The longer part of the boomerang is used as a handle and the shorter wing is extremly shapr. It is used by the men for hunting larger animals, such as Kangaroo, Emu). In ceremonies they are used as clapping sticks.

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Bush Berry

There are many species of Bush berries, gathered by Australian Aboriginal women in Central Australia. Bush berries are a staple food souce for Aboriginal people.

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Campsite or Waterhole

Roundels depicted in Aboriginal artworks can be camp site or water hole. These sites are culturally significant to Australian Aboriginal people living in Central Australia.

(Video) Aboriginal Art and Culture in the Territory

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Campsite

Concentric circles in Aboriginal artwroks can represent a camp site, meeting place or ceremonial site. These sites are culturally significant to Australian Aboriginal people living in Central Australia.

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Coolamon

A Coolamon is a hand crafted wooden dish, which is used by Australian Aboriginal women when gathering bush tucker , transportating water or carrying babies.

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Digging or Clapping Sticks

Digging sticks are hand crafted wooden implements, sharpened at one end, which the Australian Aboriginaal women used to dig for edible bush tucker, like roots, tubers, honey ants, reptiles. In womens ceremonies they are used as clapping sticks.

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Aboriginal Symbols Glossary | Central Art Aboriginal Art Store (11)

Emu

This symbol depicted in Aboriginal artworks represents Emu tracks. The Australian Aboriginal men follow the tracks to hunt the Emu (large flight-less bird), which is a staple food and is used for bush medicine. In men's ceremonies the Emu feathers are used for body decoration.

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Emu 2

This symbols depicted in Aboriginal artworks represents emu tracks. The Australian Aboriginal men follow these tracks to hunt the emu (large flight-less bird), which is a staple food source and is used for bush medicine. In men's ceremonies the emu feathers are used for body decoration. The sinews are used in hand crafting of tools and weapons.

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Goanna

This symbol or icon represents the tracks of the goanna. Australian Aboriginal people hunt the goanna by following its tracks in the sand. The goanna and its eggs are a principal food source. There are many other ways this symbol is represented, depending on the artists region.

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Hole or Cloud or Nest

These symbols rockhole, cloud or nest are depicted in Australian Aboriginal artwork. They can have multiple meanings depending on the artist's Dreaming.

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Honey Ant

Honey ants are depicted in many Australian Aboriginal artworks from Central Australia. The Aboriginal women used digging sticks to dig deep into the sand and search for honey ants. The honey ants produce a honey like liquid in their abdomen, which is regarded as a special treat by Aboriginal people.

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(Video) Wally Caruana Masters Series Lecture: "Aboriginal Australian Art Today"

Aboriginal Symbols Glossary | Central Art Aboriginal Art Store (16)

Honey Ant Site

This symbol depicts the tracks or journey path to the honey ants sites. At these sites the Australian Aboriginal women used digging sticks to dig out the honey ant nests from the sand. The honey ants produce a honey like liquid in their abdomen, which is regarded by Aboriginal people as a special treat.

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Kangaroo Track

This symbol depicted represents in Australian Aboriginal artworks kangaroo tracks. The Aboriginal men hunt the kangaroo by following its tracks in the sand.

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Moving Kangaroo Tracks

This symbol or icon represents the tracks of a moving kangaroo in Australian Aboriginal artworks. The line in the centre depicts the track of its tail, as it moves along in the sand.

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Man

This symbol depicted represents a man with spear in Australian Aboriginal artworks. The spear is a handcrafted weapon the Aboriginal men used for hunting larger prey. This symbol depicted next to a U shaped icon , determines if it is a man or woman.

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Man 2

This icon depicted represents a man with spear and woomera (spear thrower). These are handcrafted wooden weapons the Australian Aboriginal men used for hunting larger prey. This symbol depicted next to a U shpaed motif , determines if it is a man or woman.

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Meeting Place

This symbol depicted in Australian Aboriginal artworks represents meeting place (concentric circle) and journey path (lines). A meeting place is cuturally a significant site for Aboriginal men and women. It is a place where they meet, gather around, sitting in a circle.

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Aboriginal Symbols Glossary | Central Art Aboriginal Art Store (22)

People Sitting

This symbol depicted represents Aboriginal poeple sitting around campsite or waterhole in Australian Aboriginal paintings. Each U shpaed icon represent a person.

(Video) Aboriginal Artist Julie Robinson Nangala 0876

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Person

This symbol is often depicted in Australian Aboriginal paintings. The U shaped icon represents a person depending what is next to this symbol, determines if it is a man or women.

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Possum

This symbol represents the foot print of the possum. This icon is often depicted in Australian Aboriginal artworks from Yuendumu in Central Australia. The possum Dreaming is of significance.

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Rain

This symbol represents rain in Australian Aboriginal artworks in Central Australia. Aboriginal people celebrate rain by performing song and dance cycles during ceremonies.

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Sandhill or Cloud

This symbol has multiple interpretations. It can represent as sandhill, cloud, rainbow or windbreak (shelter) in Australian Aboriginal artworks.

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Smoke, Waterflow, Lightning or Bushfire

This symbol depicted has many different interpretations, depending on the artist's Dreaming. It can represent in Australian Aboriginal paintings as smoke, waterflow, lightning or bush fire.

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Snake

This symbol represents snake. In Centralian Australian Aboriginal artworks the snake is referred to as the Rainbow Serpent, a mythology creature from the Dreamtime.

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Spear

This symbol depicts two examples of a spear. The spears are handcrafted by the Australian Aboriginal men and used as weapons for hunting prey. The men heat the spears over fire or in hot ash to straighten or strengthen the wood.

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Aboriginal Symbols Glossary | Central Art Aboriginal Art Store (30)

Star

This symbol can be depicted in Australian Aboriginal artworks as a star. The stars are referred to by Aboriginal people , as totemic beings.

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(Video) When Aboriginal Art Became Fine Art

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Travelling Sign

This symbol depicted represents campsite or resting place (circle) joined by path (straight lines) . This is often seen in Australian Aboriginal artworks.

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Waterholes connected by running water

This symbol depicted represents two waterholes connected by flowing water (wavy lines).

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Aboriginal Symbols Glossary | Central Art Aboriginal Art Store (33)

Witchetty Grub

This symbol depicts a witchetty grub, which is a feature in Central Australian Aboriginal artworks. The grub is considered to be a staple food souce for Aboriginal people.

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Woman

This symbol represents a woman and digging stick. Australian Aboriginal women from Central Australia used digging sticks to dig out edible bush food, such as roots, yam, witchetty grubs.

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Woman 2

This symbol depicts digging stick (I), woman (U), coolamon (()). These are common symbols used in bush tucker paintings from Central Australia.

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Woomera

This symbol depicts a woomera, whiich is also know as spear thrower device.

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Aboriginal Symbols Glossary | Central Art Aboriginal Art Store (37)

Yam Plant

This symbol depicts the yam plant and its extensive root system. It features in many Australian Aboriginal paintings from Central Australia. The bush yam is a staple food source gathered by the Aboriginal women. In cereonies the women pay homage tothe yam plant.

(Video) Aboriginal Art (1966)

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FAQs

What do the symbols mean in Aboriginal art? ›

The use of symbols is an alternate way to write down stories of cultural significance, teaching survival and use of the land. Symbols are used by Aboriginal people in their art to preserve their culture and tradition. They are also used to depict various stories and are still used today in contemporary Aboriginal Art.

What are Aboriginal symbols called? ›

Varying from region to region, Indigenous symbols (often called iconography) are generally understood and form an important part of Australian Aboriginal art.

What is the Aboriginal symbol for man? ›

The Aboriginal symbol for a man is a 'U' shaped curve in combination with two vertical lines. The Aboriginal art symbol for a man is an inverted 'U' shaped curve in combination with two vertical lines.

What are some indigenous symbols? ›

Native American Symbols
  • The Bear Symbol.
  • The Beaver Symbol.
  • The Bee Symbol.
  • The Butterfly Symbol.
  • Dogfish or Shark Woman Symbol.
  • The Dragonfly Symbol.
  • The Eagle Symbol.
  • The Frog Symbol.

Who created Aboriginal art? ›

The first exhibition was in 1937 by the most famous of the first aboriginal watercolour painters, Albert Namatjira. His exhibition was held in Adelaide. Below are several of his artworks and a collage of images. Up until the early 1970s artists mainly used watercolours.

Why is art important to Aboriginal culture? ›

Indigenous art is centred on story telling. It is used as a chronicle to communicate knowledge of the land, events and beliefs of the Aboriginal people. The use of symbols is an alternate way to writing down stories of cultural significance. It educates the people on how to use the land and survive in it.

How do you draw Aboriginal symbols? ›

Family Project - How to Draw Aboriginal Symbols - YouTube

What do the different patterns mean in Aboriginal art? ›

Black dot patterns often represented stars, ancestral desert tracks and or body parts while lines signaled waterfalls, rivers or landscapes. The most common styles of aboriginal art are dot painting, abstract painting, and sand or rock engraving. Each region has its own unique style.

What does the snake mean in Aboriginal art? ›

Snakes are indigenous to all parts of Australia and feature strongly in the Creation stories held by Aboriginal people and in their paintings and carvings. The snake has been used as a symbol of strength, creativity and continuity since ancient times across many societies.

What do the colors mean in Aboriginal art? ›

The sacred Aboriginal colours, said to be given to the Aborigines during the Dreamtime, are Black, Red, Yellow and White. Black represents the earth, marking the campfires of the dreamtime ancestors. Red represents fire, energy and blood - 'Djang', a power found in places of importance to the Aborigines.

What does the lizard mean in Aboriginal art? ›

Lizards are part of the Dreaming stories that relate to the creation of the natural world and to the role of Ancestors and humans in that world. The Thorny Lizard or Mountain Devil Lizard plays a major role in the Dreaming story of Central Australia. Artists represent the landscape that the Lizard Ancestor created.

What does blue mean in indigenous art? ›

They blend and mix so that it could the sky and the clouds, it could be the sea, the ocean, the water. The colours carry right through the spirit figures of the group of people coming together. In this sense Fiona Omeenyo uses the blues to create an ethereal sense of space in paintings.

What does blue mean in Aboriginal? ›

Because these were their first two colours at birth, they are sacred to Aboriginal people all over Australia and to this day continue to connect us with our spirituality and our sovereignty. The blue light in the atmosphere is the omnipresence of our Creator. This is the colour most visible to us all.

What does blue mean in Aboriginal art? ›

Symbols are central to Aboriginal art

Blue tones (to represent the ocean) and warm tones of brown and orange (to represent the earth) are most commonly used. The symbols can also be used for teaching purposes, catering to both children and adults.

What do turtles mean in Aboriginal art? ›

Turtles are a favoured food source for Indigenous communities and therefore appear as totems and in Dreamtime stories and Creation myths. Indigenous people respect the food resources that sustain them and they celebrate the turtle in rituals that aim to increase the bounty of the species.

What does a kangaroo symbolize in Aboriginal art? ›

Kangaroos often feature in traditional Aboriginal art as part of a hunting or 'Dreaming' story. They appear in symbolic form as track patterns or as illustrations of the creature itself.

Is Uluru a God? ›

Uluru is considered sacred to the Aboriginal people as it is known to protect ancient spirits of the region. In this sense, Uluru is deeply important to the Aboriginal cultural identity. As the creation of Uluru is central to Adnoartina's story, this deity is regarded as an important figure in the Aboriginal culture.

Videos

1. Aboriginal Art as Contemporary Art
(Kluge–Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection)
2. Aboriginal Art Intro with Mr. Souza
(M. Souza)
3. Aboriginal Art by Artlandish Gallery Kununurra
(Artlandish Aboriginal Art Gallery)
4. Aboriginal Art - recording the Dreamtime: Lecture by Rebecca Hossack
(The Arts Society)
5. Fake Aboriginal Art - Behind the News
(Behind the News)
6. The Wonders of Aboriginal Australian Art | Rebecca Hossack | TEDxOxford
(TEDx Talks)

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