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Painting of a Female Figure

Most Australian bark paintings are from Arnhem Land in the northern part of the country. Like their less-portable counterparts, rock paintings and engravings, bark paintings refer to the Dreaming (also called the Dreamtime), a term coined in the late nineteenth century that refers to aboriginal cosmology. The Dreaming provides a framework indicating how life should be lived to maintain harmony not only with other people, but also with the land, its creatures, the ancestors, and the cosmos. People who share the same Dreamings express their associations through imagery appropriate to that particular Dreaming, which is fully understood only by members. Bark paintings such as this depict mimis, ancestral spirit beings and narratives based on the artist’s Dreaming.

Arnhem Land, Australia
Painting of a Female Figure
20th century
Bark, pigment
H. 31 ½ in. (80.0 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 80.2.1