‘Wanampi is there, you don’t see him with your eyes, like ordinary things, but you know he is there, you feel him there, you can feel him moving.’
Indigenous woman describing the movement of a Jukurrpa snake at a specific site in central Australia. July 2014.
The ARAS site gathers images and symbols from many of the worlds’ peoples and cultures. ARAS serves as a cultural custodian. ARAS is a modern way of preserving and protecting the memory of our beloved cultures. It is timely for ARAS to help protect indigenous cultural forms. Many of those forms are of ancient origins.
ARAS is now beginning to look into the ways to respectfully include images and patterns from some of the most ancient living traditions in the world. These are people of Australasia. The ARAS Board has been patient and cautious, waiting until natural human relationships have been established with people who are directly involved in the Australian indigenous culture.
It may be true to say that for many of the images (from the Northern Hemisphere) collected in the archive, there are no known, personally remembered individuals alive who designed the symbolic forms now nesting in the archive. The images are inherited and may be present to us, but the persons who created those images are no longer living.
Such original peoples may have lived thousands of years ago in the Caucasus, the Tigris basin, the Danube or on the islands of Crete. They have left behind their imagery - but they cannot be spoken to directly - “What do you mean by that image and how do you use it in story, ceremony or initiation?” Though in some cultures the living thread is tended and passed on, many connections in the thread of memory have broken in the course of thousands of years; and so we have the images from the past without the living custodians who made those images.
The situation in present day Australia is unusual. The people who are custodians of the symbolic languages of Australian first peoples are alive and continually engaged in relationships with the creatures, objects, movements and terrain that form the symbolic language of Australian indigenous tribal groupings.
In Australia, the people who make the images are living people and though some may live in fraught, fractured and embattled conditions, the tradition and lineages of meaning are in existence. It is possible to talk with the people who make the images and tell the stories; it is even possible to enquire respectfully, cautiously, personally into the meaning and intent and use of symbolic objects, actions, narratives, images.
It is has been reassuring for me, (a Jungian Analyst and community mental health worker in remote Australia ) to discover that the symbolic and ceremonial forms of Australian indigenous peoples are alive and active in the present, and these forms can be drawn upon with healing intent. While I recognize at the same time that the memory and practice of those forms is fading or changing, or being rediscovered.
ARAS would like to introduce you to Australia through some of the people who we know personally. We do this by courteously introducing people who we hope you will get to know through the ARAS site. In this first entry of Aboriginal material into ARAS Connections we bring you some works from Andrew Spencer Japaljarri and family and the Warlukurlangu Art Gallery in Yuendumu, central Australia. If you take the trouble to go to the Warlu website you will meet some notable artists and glimpse the iconography of the Warlpiri. Warlukurlangu Artists Gallery has graciously agreed to partner ARAS on this project.
Read Living people - Living language - Living symbol in it's entirety.