“Dreamtime” is a term that describes a number of unique beliefs and stories held by Australian Aboriginal people. The word is steeped in history and says a lot about how Aboriginal people view their place in the world. It also speaks of the development of place and creation of landmarks, flora and fauna over time. This dreamtime is often expressed through art.
Why are Dreamtime stories important?
Many groups refer to Dreamtime as "Jukurrpa", especially in the central desert area. For some traditional Aboriginal people, Dreaming stories may have more of a religious connotation and a description of their reality. For others, it could even reflect the very structure of their being.
What is a Dreamtime story?
Through the process of "Dreaming", Aboriginal people reflect on their ancestors and believe that their spirits remain with them, taking the form of places, people and animals. It's a way of connecting the past to the present and can tell a lot about the future, so it is definitely something that is beyond conventional life.
Aboriginal people often define their beliefs through painting; thus, we see many fine examples of Aboriginal Dreamtime stories on canvas. They are depicting their own "Dreaming" stories and thus connecting everyday life to tradition, heritage and beliefs.
The history of Dreamtime
The more modern concept of Dreamtime came into being at the end of the 19th century and was a word used to describe Aboriginal creations. During this time, Dreamtime was made famous through the work of Baldwin Spencer, a key anthropologist working in the area at the time. Today, Dreamtime is a widely understood term in general use across Australia. People use it to describe the Aboriginal people's religious beliefs and history.
Dreamtime stories in art
Western cultures have often been fascinated by Aboriginal life, including the existence of Dreamtime stories. In these works of art, the Aboriginal people strive to tell certain stories that reflect the foundational beliefs and spiritual ideas upon which their culture was born.
The meaning of Dreamtime
In Dreamtime, they say that the ancestral beings created key locations across the landscape that helped to depict their knowledge and power in those places. Often, the locals will tie these locations to performances and ceremonies or individual families that were present in those areas.The essence of Dreamtime and the very spirit of creation is shown in the artworks, with a clear connection to the people and the surrounding landscape. These artworks help the Aboriginals recognise and honour their own identity. In so doing, Dreamtime represents a complex mixture of creation mythology, religious practices, law and the spirit of creation. When someone sets out to create a Dreamtime story through Aboriginal art, they may be satisfying some cultural obligations to help continue the tradition and express some key thoughts through that artwork. It's important to note that "Dreamtime" is an approximate term for something very difficult to define.
Encapsulating an entire culture
Many experts feel that it is difficult to encapsulate the true meaning of this culture through a simple word such as "Dreamtime". Even though this word is now widely used throughout Western cultures to describe the Aboriginal culture and its beliefs, it does not completely address what is essentially a complex system of ideas that may go through subtle changes in different Aboriginal communities.It is nevertheless a word that can be adequately used to describe the powerful works of art found in the best Aboriginal paintings, popular in art galleries and museums across the country.
The Bush Plum Dreaming story
The Bush Plum Dreaming story is a common example of a Dreamtime story. It is set in the sprawling central and western deserts between Warlpiri County and Lajamanu County in the Utopia homeland. In this story, they say that the Dreamtime winds blew in, carrying Bush Plum seeds to the surrounding land. The first Bush Plum plant grew from the seeds, bearing fruit and depositing more seeds. Strong winds then blew all the seeds over the surrounding Dreaming land. So, to ensure that this process continues each season, the Aboriginal people pay homage to the spirit of the Bush Plum by holding ceremonies and portraying it in their paintings. The magnificent patterns in each of these paintings depict the Bush Plum, its leaves, flowers and fruit, along with the spirit of the ceremony that takes place each season.
The Rainbow Serpent Dreamtime story
Another famous story is the Rainbow Serpent story. In this tale, the Rainbow Serpent is the primary force of nature, connected to water and capable of giving life. The Aboriginal people believe that the Rainbow Serpent lives in waterholes and can travel between them, either underground or within storm clouds during bad weather. They say that the presence of the Rainbow Serpent is enough to bring on the rain. The Aboriginal people always want to ensure that the Rainbow Serpent is in good spirits, as otherwise, he could prevent nourishing rains and bring on an extensive drought.To honour the Rainbow Serpent, people often respect the area next to each waterhole. They will tell him that they recognise his power and will rub a certain amount of earth onto their bodies to enable the Serpent to smell their presence. Artists paint the Rainbow Serpent on bark to honour his presence and depict the ceremony. It is said that the Rainbow Serpent tradition is one of the oldest continuous religious beliefs in the world. As such, collectors often cherish Rainbow Serpent paintings.There are many other famous indigenous Dreamtime stories, including the Damper Seed, the Seven Sisters Dreaming story, Water Dreaming and Tingari.
Aboriginal Dreaming artwork at Wentworth Galleries
You'll find an extensive collection of Aboriginal Dreamtime paintings at Wentworth Galleries. We are proud to honour the Aboriginal culture and celebrate their artists' work, striving to share their indigenous stories with the world and showcase some of these fantastic creations.At our Sydney art gallery, you'll find the works of some of Australia's best artists. So, whether you're looking to rent a painting for a limited time or own a one-of-a-kind piece of Aboriginal Dreaming artwork, you'll have plenty of choices at Wentworth Galleries. We also offer a free office or home trial and a two-year exchange guarantee for your peace of mind.
Own your Aboriginal Dreaming painting today
Browse through our extensive, carefully curated collection of Aboriginal Dreaming paintings for sale at Wentworth Galleries. There's no better way to add colour and vibrancy to your place than to create a talking point whenever you have visitors. You are sure to be delighted by the quality of art on display from talented artists.
If you have any questions, reach out to us and we’ll be more than happy to help.