Research : Land Art Assignment : Songlines

Land Art is not new, but perhaps the relationship with the land has changed. There was a time when people lived closer to the cycles of the earth and moon. In Australia the indigenous people created what are described in English as Songlines. These create maps and tracks which are danced and chanted and sung. The rituals of listening and conversing with the ancestral spirits along the way, hearing the birds and animals that live on these songlines, and walking ancient invisible routes are all aspects of aboriginal spirituality.


Rainbow Serpent Australian Indigenous Art Creative Commons

Rainbow Serpent Australian Indigenous Art Creative Commons

“The ancestor is responsible for the law and country, a responsibility which is carried by the traditional owner of the song today. The owner of the song is responsible for the country and particular sacred places, and when the song travels over these sacred places it is sung by the traditional owner of song or country.”
Bill Harney, Wardaman Elder, 2009
Kaltjiti artist sing country, dance country and paint the song of their lands. The epic song cycles of the Western Desert peoples have resounded for thousands of years across these sand dunes of central Australia, echoed back from the orange rock faces of the granite hills and eddied around the deep blue rock holes where precious water hides from the scorching sun.

The creation ancestors first sang these songs at the dawn of time. These giant beings strode the land changing their shape from human to beast or plant, to water, earth or wind. The landscape still holds their resting forms in rounded hills, the fury of their flight was caught in twisted bloodwood trees and their flesh – know transformed – wraps the marble gums as dappled bark.

Songs sung down the generations have kept the land alive and spirit of her people strong.”

Dr Diana James, Author, Painting the Song Kaltjiti artists of the sand dune country, 2009
“Today many Aboriginal communities are wanting to explain their heritage and show visitors around their country. Firsthand knowledge gained in this way may help to understand Aboriginal Australia, as a living legacy of spiritual knowledge shared through rituals, dance, stories and journeys touching on aspects of the Dreamtime.”
Dr Irene Watson, Tanganekald & Meintangk woman, Lonely Planet Aboriginal Australia & Torres Strait Islands, Sydney, 2001

Inspired by these Songlines artists in Norfolk, England,  created their own version , marking the path with land art, using song, poetry and storytelling.


Great article in the Guardian


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