Australia’s Aborigines, who have lived on that continent for at least 40,000 years, were until recently considered extremely “primitive.” Today, anthropologists recognize their complex social patterns and rich cosmology, their centuries-old contacts with Melanesians and Indonesians, their pioneering of human cremation, rock art, tools and grindstones. So too with Aboriginal art – it is slowly gaining recognition as one of the world’s great artistic traditions.
The Dreamtime of the Aborigines’ bark paintings, acrylics, ceremonial objects and sculptures is both the sacred, life-giving dimension of the present and the realm in which ancestral spirits roam the landscape. Sutton, an anthropologist with the South Australian Museum, led a team of experts to put together this astonishing, gorgeous book and the landmark traveling exhibition it showcases. Works reproduced range from geometrical dreamscapes with startling similarities to modern abstract art, through mythic, psychological and erotic symbolism, to contemporary reworkings of the Aboriginal aesthetic in rugs, posters, ceramics and photography.
Peter Sutton is an Australian social anthropologist and linguist who has, over a period of almost 40 years, significantly contributed to: recording Australian Aboriginal languages; promoting Australian Aboriginal art; mapping Australian Aboriginal cultural landscapes; and increasing societies’ general understanding of contemporary Australian Aboriginal social structures and systems of land tenure.
Most recently, Peter Sutton has shifted his anthropological focus away from Aboriginal Australian subjects themselves, and more towards the nature and effect of the public policy that has governed those Aboriginal Australian’s over the 40 years he has been conducting anthropological research.