International Journal of Art & Design Education

Belonging to the Land: Understanding Aboriginal Art and Culture

Volume 16.3   1997



Before the intrusion of colonial powers, and for a long time afterwards, the Aboriginal people relied on their own lands for all the necessities of life. Today, traditional beliefs struggle to be remembered in societies in which Aboriginal peoples are marginalized. In fact, the political and economic realities of Aboriginal peoples are defined by mainstream cultures which, even today, choose to assume the precepts of dominant cultures apply to indigenous cultures. This has been devastating for most Aboriginal peoples. However, they still maintain a relationship with their traditional lands which is uniquely different from that of Westerners or Chinese. What makes the relationship so different is that Aboriginal peoples in Australia, Canada and Taiwan do not believe they own traditional lands, instead they believe they belong to the land, the environment. In this sense, land is honoured, cared for, respected and protected as a result of beliefs that nurture personal and cultural identity.