The Dreamtime


Design Sydney-East, 2008

“The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”

 -- Muriel Rukeyser


Aboriginal cosmology does not embrace the Western construct of sequential time. Rather, the Aboriginal universe is experienced as a simultaneity, an eternal “now” commonly referred to as “The Dreamtime,” where fantastic and heroic beings once moved within, upon, and outside the unformed land in a perpetual state of becoming. The ancestors of “The Dreamtime” were capable of multitudinous shape-shifting incarnations. They could become animal, plant, water, stars, earth or rock. Their interactions with each other, the earth and the universe molded the world. The experiences, transformations and history of the ancestors of “The Dreamtime” continue to inform and direct the Aboriginal mind and soul.


Thousands of years of oral tradition, singing, painting, dance, sacred rites and secret initiation have distilled into an intricate web of Aboriginal “songlines” that are mystical as well as utilitarian; empowering those who have been initiated into their deep secrets with the ability to navigate and orient within the vast desert spaces of Australia’s interior and to act as guides and custodians of the law.


“The Dreamtime” ancestors created, shaped, and eventually became, the physical phenomena of the world, consisting of the waterholes, the animals, the stars, trees and mountains; these phenomena are held by Aboriginal people to have been sung into existence and are sacred. The Aboriginal “Dreamtime” is a timeless and divine totality of being; its powerful influence can be seen and felt in much contemporary Australian Aboriginal art and is one of reasons why this art so unique and compelling.