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Understanding Aboriginal art, iconography and symbols

Many people ask what Aboriginal art means. Here is a quote by Anangu of the central desert APY Lands South Australia which succinctly summarises the deep meaning behind the art work-story.

"Tjukurpa refers to the creation period when ancestral beings created the world. From this came our religious heritage, explaining our existence and guiding our daily life. It is the law for caring for one another and for the land that supports us.

Tjukurpa tells of the relationships between people, plants, animals and the physical features of the land. It refers to the time when ancestral beings created the world as we know it.

 Knowledge of how these relationships came to be, what they mean and how they must be carried on is explained in Tjukurpa.

Tjukurpa refers to the past, the present and the future at the same time. None of the places we know existed until our ancestors, in the form of people, plants and animals, traveled widely across the land.

As they traveled they formed the world as we know it, creating trees, rocks, caves, boulders, cracks and waterholes.

The details of the activities and travels of the ancestral beings have been taught to us in stories, songs, dances and ceremonies.

Our deep knowledge of the land…….is based on our knowledge of Tjukurpa. This knowledge is carefully passed on…..”

01   innedi tree (small red seeds)
02  witchety grub
03  2 men (each symbol represents 1 man) 
04  foot prints
05  rainbow-cloud or sand hill
06   women cooking
07  women sitting with coolamon & digging stick
08  boomerang
09  bush tomato-wild plum
10  honey ants
11  women
12  stone axe
13  emu tracks
14  emu mother earth
15  dreaming trails
16  coolamon 
17  wild apples 
18  feeding kangaroo tracks 
19  child 


20  coolamon with carrying handle 
21  camp site-stone well-rock hole-breast-fire-hole or fruit
22  water-rainbow-snake-lightning-cliff-honey store
23  man
24  men sitting with boomerangs & spear
25  spinifex
26  spear thrower 
27  dingo tracks
28  woman & man or 2 persons back to back
29  killer boomerang
30  woomera
31  spirit ancestor
32  tribes
33  yam
34  lizard tracks
35  2 men sitting by a water hole
36  water hole 
37  returning boomerang
38  4 bladed boomerang used to keep ducks & birds down over water to run them into nets set across water
39  community
40  dreaming track with emus. earth mother energy rising
41  bush onion
42  personsitting
43  possum tracks
44  underground water running
44  water hole & dry creek bed connecting to next water hole
45  ducks flying around water hole
46  music ( clap ) sticks
47  goaanna tracks. (goannas are snake bite immune)
48  star  
49  bush banana
50  sand goanna
51  traveling sign with circles as resting place
52  rain
53  moving kangaroo tracks
54  4 women sitting with digging sticks
55  clouds-boomerangs-windbreaks
56  sun father destiny