Aboriginal Australia

It is not only the opening to the outside that allows the horizon to expand: a return to the interior also makes discoveries, as shown by the boom in literature aboriginal. For a long time, the original inhabitants of Australia were regarded by their invaders as primitives incapable of adapting to the modern world, and thus doomed to disappear. Held for negligible amounts, they nevertheless survived on the margins of Australian society and, apart from anthropologists and a handful of administrators, no one paid much attention to them. Their culture was considered archaic and entirely irrelevant in Australia xx thcentury. They would nevertheless demonstrate the opposite. In the 1960s and 1970s, they remembered the memory of their non-native compatriots by campaigning for their civil rights and land rights, and more generally for making them more worthy of place in Australian society. At the same time, they produced artistic works of great vigor. This conjunction of politics and culture is embodied in Yirrkala’s bark paintings (1963), in which the Yolngu people supported their claims to indigenous land rights. Petitions and paintings coexisted on the same support and tended to the same end.

The Aborigines were thus invited to the Australian cultural scene. Until then, their achievements were considered to have anthropological rather than aesthetic value – testimonies about the beliefs and practices of a primitive people in the process of extinction rather than works of art. In 1964, Aboriginal activist Kath Walker (who later went by the name of Oodgeroo Noonuccal) published We Are Going, the first collection of poetry ever written by a native woman. This book, which evoked the impending disappearance of the Aborigines if their fate did not improve, had a great popularity, and contributed to make better known the sad condition of the First Australians. The following year, Colin Johnson (later named Mudrooroo) released the first novel by Aborigine Wildcat Falling , denouncing the destructive effects of racism in Western Australia. From then on, Aboriginal literature would become an essential component of Australian culture, whether it was drama with Jack Davis orJimmy Chi, of poetry with Lionel Fogarty or Sam Watson or, especially, of novel, genre for which authors such as Alexis Wright and Kim Scott have won the most prestigious literary prizes of Australia  

The cultural role of Aborigines was not limited to literature. As early as the 1970s, Aboriginal painting flourished considerably. To the ritual function she had in traditional society was added a function at once aesthetic and commercial which brought this painting into the world of contemporary art. It was a great success, especially because of the originality of its representations and its vigorous use of color. The paintings of some artists such as Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Thomas Rover and Kathleen Petyarre, which tell the legendary stories of the community in seemingly abstract, coded form, and thus inaccessible to Westerners, reach a considerable commercial value. The musical field is hardly in rest. In the 1980s the band Warumpi Band wrote the first rock song in Aboriginal language, while in 1991 Yothu Yindi group approached the peaks of the hit with its single “Treaty”. More recently, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, a blind musician who had been part of the band, was embarking on a solo career and was very successful with a first disc written mainly in the Yolngu language.

It is clear today that we can no longer speak of Australian culture without mentioning Aboriginal culture. Discovering this fascinating culture is one of the main motivations attracting foreign visitors to Australia.