Dreamtime In The Alice

For three days I have been in Alice Springs, which is located right in the center of Australia.  It is 106 here in the desert so I have been studying in museums, art galleries, the library, and  book stores, and speaking with working aboriginal artists about their work. Each piece of art tells a story, a story of the Dreamtime, which is knowledge from the unconscious.  You are said to be born with this knowledge but it takes your elders to help you discover it. The featured image tells one of the stories from the Dreamtime and is titled Seven Sisters. The Dreamtime explains everything: how the world came to be, how to live and how to relate to people. These stories are said to have originated 40,000 years ago. Some of the stories are similar to Aesop’s Fables.

The aboriginal culture equates fire with food.  Domesticated burnings make a clearing to hunt, then later the land has new growth of seeds and plants.  The two paintings below tell the story of burnings, regrowth of crops and the valuable discovery of permanent waterholes.


Aboriginal artists must produce stories from the Dreamtime but their interpretation of the story is entirely their own.  Rather like an actor performing Hamlet:  the actor may not change Hamlet’s words  but how the actor says these words is his art.


  1. Beverly Bishop

    10 February

    These 3 Dreamtime paintings are exquisite…even enlarged mightily they look a bit fibrous, (waterholes and fields) not simply applied paint. Each speaks of patience and sureness, especially the lovely cross-hatching. You’re so fortunate to where you are. Beverly

    • tarpley

      12 February

      I feel fortunate, Beverly. The anthropologist in me is thrilled to have this experience. Will have more to share on the aborigines who are teaching me so much! Hugs to you, Chauncey and the precious granddaughters, Tee

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