Dot painting
Contemporary Aboriginal artists of inland and central Australia produce colourful paintings for the tourist and art markets using acrylic paints on board, canvas and paper. A feature of this art is the use of dots, and many people believe that the Dot Painting Style of Central Australia is a recent development.

This belief has arisen because it was in the 1960s that a Central Australian school teacher encouraged Aboriginal elders to record their art with acrylic paints on pieces of board. Previously secret-sacred designs were modified and permitted to be reproduced, and made available publically. The use of brightly-coloured dots became widespread, and with it, the belief that the dots themselves were of recent origin.

In fact, dot painting is a feature of body decoration, when people paint themselves for ceremonial occasions, and has been present in Aboriginal culture for possibly 20,000 years. Early rock shelter paintings in the Kimberley sometimes depict human figures where it is clear that they are decorated with dots painted over their bodies. Photographs of Aboriginal people taken in the last century show that dots were used on some ceremonial occasions in parts of the Kimberley, the Northern Territory, and southern Australia.

aboriginal dot painting


Dot painting decoration on the body of an ancient human figure. Kimberley rock art.
Photo: David M. Welch


Men with dots as part of their ceremonial body paint.
Corunna Downs, Western Australia, early 1900s.
Photograph courtesy of the Battye Library, State Library of Western Australia.

aboriginal body paint




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