How Does Body Painting Relate
To Aboriginal Culture?

Body art or Aboriginal body painting is tied directly to and is a major part of aboriginal culture.

The designs or patterns reflect a persons relationship and standing in the community and also their ancestors and totem animal.

The painting is part of the complex laws and religion and stories that make up ceremonial life.

There are a number of art works in our store collection that are based on the body patterns and stories of the artists designs.

This painting is mainly carried out for the ceremonies that are part of the Aboriginal culture.

Each ceremony has different painting symbols used as a link specifically for that particular ceremony.

No cultural ceremony is performed until the initiated (senior men) are satisfied that all participants are fully able to fulfill their obligations.

Sometimes this takes many hours or days of preparations and training sessions.

A person cannot change their body art design and the designs are not applied by the individual.

This body art is also representative of the various regions and their totemic responsibilities to that group showing the participants position within this grouping.

The young boys in preparation for the circumcision ceremony in Arnhem Land have very detailed Rarrk paintings painted upon their chests.

The initiated men are also carefully painted in order to perform this sacred ceremony.


There is also a more permanent form of decoration.

The scarring of the skin by cutting the skin with a sharp stone or shell and rubbing ash or sand into the wound to create a permanent keloid scar on the skin.

These scars are also a mark of a persons status.

In one of the Women’s ceremonies they use special painting symbols to encourage breast growth as part of the sacred women’s business ceremonies.

Each of the hunting ceremonies has special painting symbols used again specifically to encourage success from that ceremony.

Ochre a soft rock is crushed and mixed with animal fat snd used to apply the designs ash and clay are also used.

The body art may stay in place for some time as some ceremonies may last several days and nights which includes dancing, singing and story-telling.

Aboriginal body Painting is a special and necessary part of all Aboriginal ceremonies.