Larissa Behrendt reviews the first expanded showing of over 200 bark paintings at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.
“If these paintings are sacred, how can they be done for Balanda (Europeans) to buy? The Balanda can buy the painting, they can see the image and understand what it is about on the surface, they will learn from the painting about Yolngu land, life and beliefs. But they will not learn about the deep meanings of the paintings they buy.”
These are the words of R. Marika, a member of the renowned Aboriginal family of artists from Arnhem Land and a teacher and translator. Her observations articulate the divide between the multi-layered role that the artistic process and product plays in Aboriginal culture and the way in which Aboriginal art is understood and viewed by the outside world.