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Aboriginal Dreamings Gallery Silver Jubilee 2013

CELEBRATING 25 YEARS

Aboriginal Dreamings Gallery in Canberra will be celebrating its Silver Jubilee, celebrating 25 years in 2013, and in the same year Canberra will celebrate its Centenary of the founding of Canberra.

Aboriginal Dreamings Gallery (ADG) was established in 1989 as one of the first Aboriginal Art galleries in the Canberra region, and incorporated the original collection of Aboriginal arts and crafts previously assembled by the Director, consisting predominately of Arnhem Land bark paintings and Hermannsburg watercolours. Her interest in Australian Aboriginal Arts stemmed from studies at Melbourne Ward’s ethnographic museum at Medlow Bath in the Blue Mountains in the 1940s, as well as visits to the Australian Museum in Sydney.

For 25 years, Aboriginal Dreamings Gallery has developed an extensive collection of artworks from many states and regions in Australia. From its small beginnings in a historic building in Bungendore in 1989, Aboriginal Dreamings Gallery has been located for the past 12 years in two free-standing energy-efficient houses (Jen-VueHomes, Australian Energy Efficient Housing Project, 1994/1995) in the centre of Gold Creek Village, a tourist village on the western outskirts of Canberra, just off the Barton Highway. At the time of building in 1994, these houses were connected directly by computer to the GlassHouse - a research Centre in Sydney, and were monitored for all gas, electricity and water consumption. The buildings face north and a feature in the front garden is a large free-standing horizontal sundial, aligned due North-South, with a height of 1.75m. It is recognised as one of the largest sundials in Canberra.

Interest in the development of Australian Aboriginal Art has flourished since 1971. Paintings made of ochres on stringybark shelters, on rock shelters and caves and incised graphics on wood and stone had been in existence for many centuries. Traditional Aboriginal people, living in the desert regions, however, did not have ready access to the raw materials necessary to record their art permanently, so their arts- body painting and large ceremonial sand paintings - were largely ephemeral. It was only in 1971 – and only 17 years prior to the opening of Aboriginal Dreamings Gallery in 1989 - that traditional nomadic desert Warlpiri, Luritja and Pintupi Aboriginal people had been re-located from their traditional lands into a new town built at Papunya.This re-location was because of the British Atomic Bomb Tests held from June 1955 to May 1963 at Maralinga and Emu Field. This settlement was not successful however, as the different tribes were not compatible and returned to their Homelands in later years.

Papunya had been built about 1959, and with a school for the children. A group of Aboriginal men were given artist paints from the school supplies to paint their ceremonial stories on the cement block walls of the school. This activity later encouraged the artists to paint their stories on scrap building materials. Subsequently some of these painted boards were sold in Alice Springs, and exhibited in Alice Springs art exhibitions. Thus the new Desert Art Movement began, and Desert Art is now prized and collected worldwide.

A permanent display of these valuable historic art boards can be seen in the new Indigenous Art Galleries at the National Gallery of Australia, and is a must-see for all art collectors.

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