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Trephina Sultan / Thanguwa - Tribe Luritja - Aboriginal Artist
Aboriginal Indigenous Artist - Tribe Luritja - Alice Springs / Central Australia

Symbols and their meaning in Aboriginal Art


I often get asked the meaning of some of the symbols depicted in my own artwork, as well as artwork in general. Following are some of the main symbols and their meanings, as detailed on Deadly Art Online. More information about Aboriginal symbols and iconography can be found on AusEmade Aboriginal Tourism site...
 
In its basic depiction, the individual, family and community unit is easily identified. Changes to this develop from region to region and within the same region. The same artist can depict the man as a single stroke, or the 'u' shape. The identification of the symbol can rely on the name of the painting, the story within the painting, and even just on the style that the Aboriginal artist has decided to paint with.

How a single symbol is treated within a painting can provide further detail to the viewer, such is the case where the male adult symbol is surrounded by dots. Of course, if all symbols and landscape objects are enclosed by same coloured single dot pattern, it could just be the style that the artist has decided to use.
Symbol for man in process of initiation - Deadly Art Online
man in process of initiation
Symbol for man - Deadly Art Online
man
Symbol for woman - Deadly Art Online
woman
Symbol for child - Deadly Art Online
child
Symbol for family - Deadly Art Online
family
Symbol for community - Deadly Art Online
community
Symbol for tribes - Deadly Art Online
tribes
Symbol for adult, man or woman - Deadly Art Online
adult or man or woman
Symbol for man - Deadly Art Online
man
Symbol for child or child in initiation - Deadly Art Online
child or child in initiation
Many artworks depict tools, weapons and other utensils used for a variety of activities from digging for witchetty grubs, honey ants and plant tubers to hunting of animals.
Symbol for boomerang - Deadly Art Online
boomerang
Symbol for hunting boomerang - Deadly Art Online
hunting boomerang
Symbol for returning boomerang - Deadly Art Online
return boomerang
Symbol for boomerangs - Deadly Art Online
boomerangs
Symbol for digging sticks - Deadly Art Online
digging sticks
Symbol for nulla nulla or club - Deadly Art Online
nulla nulla or club
Symbol for spear - Deadly Art Online
spear
Symbol for spears - Deadly Art Online
spears
Symbol for woomera - Deadly Art Online
woomera
Symbol for woomera - Deadly Art Online
woomera
   
Symbols are also used to depict locations. Some symbols are used in conjunction with others to depict human activities.
Symbol for campfire or waterhole - Deadly Art Online
campfire or waterhole
Symbol for campfire - Deadly Art Online
campfire
Symbol for women teaching children - Deadly Art Online
women teaching children
- the passing down of knowledge.
Foot prints and other symbols are used to depict wildlife, as well as representing their tracks left in the sand. Some artists depict the wildlife in outline form and 3 dimensional representation, whilst other artist use a particular pattern to portray the wildlife. There are paintings that appear to be pure abstract, with just lines and dots, representing an animal, with the only clue for the non initiated, is the title of the painting.
Symbol for tracks - Deadly Art Online
tracks
Symbol of kangaroo tracks - Deadly Art Online
kangaroo tracks
Symbol of kangaroo tracks - Deadly Art Online
kangaroo tracks
Symbol of kangaroo tracks - Deadly Art Online
kangaroo tracks
Symbol of kangaroo tracks - Deadly Art Online
kangaroo tracks
Symbol of kangaroo tracks - Deadly Art Online
kangaroo tracks
Symbol for emu tracks - Deadly Art Online
emu tracks
Symbol for emu track - Deadly Art Online
emu track
Symbol for emu dreaming - Deadly Art Online
emu dreaming
Symbol for goanna tracks - Deadly Art Online
goanna tracks
Goanna burrows often have multiple entrance - Deadly Art Online
goanna burrows often have multiple entrance
Symbole of goanna hole in spinifex country - Deadly Art Online
goanna hole in spinifex country