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  2. Aboriginal Art
  3. Protecting Australian Indigenous art
  4. Introduction
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The visual arts provide clear and accessible examples of the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. This text places particular emphasis on Aboriginal art forms that emerge from traditional stories and symbolism. Often, this means that the artists concerned are from recognised cultural and/or language groups that have retained or re-established a connection to tens of thousands of years of knowledge and cultural expression through art, language, ritual, music, dance, story and song.

In their work, the artists often have responsibility for representing elements of great cultural sensitivity. As this text examines ‘protection’, it is primarily concerned with Aboriginal peoples’ need to control images and styles that are integral to community identity and meaning.

Many aspects can be considered through the notion of protection. For example, teachers and students might consider Aboriginal artists’ rights to protection from:

  • unauthorised copying of images
  • adaptation of images or appropriation of styles
  • display, presentation or sale of images in a way that gives offence
  • reproduction, marketing, promotion or any other process that fails to appreciate elements that might be sacred, secret, or otherwise sensitive
  • misleading commercial representations in which ‘Aboriginal designs’ are claimed, or false pretences by non-Aboriginal artists who claim to be Aboriginal people
  • trivialisation or loss of value through mass production and merchandising.

In exploring these rights, students will consider Aboriginal perspectives on community ownership and control, and whether existing legal provisions adequately recognise these perspectives.

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