There is no word for art in any of the hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. The closest known language words refer to animal tracks or other marks of meaning made by the ancestors.
Marks are inscribed on bodies for ceremony, on rock and bark, or narrated through sand drawing or ground painting. Today they include mark-making on introduced media such as canvas and paper, and cultural ideas worked into sculptural and material forms. Albert Namatjira used Western imagery to paint his Country, while Clifford Possum Tjalpatjarri famously used acrylic paint on canvas to rework his traditional iconography. Now, with the expansive opportunities opened up through access to digital media, First Nations artists are reaching new audiences and markets as never before to tell our stories and empower our communities. After all, art is culture made visible.
Art is a way of affirming our connection to place, to our Country and to each other. It is part of the way First Peoples communicate culture to the next generation and to the rest of the world.