Painting the Law: Understanding the Law Stories in Aboriginal Art



Publication Details

Duthu, N. B. (2012). Painting the Law: Understanding the Law Stories in Aboriginal Art. In S. Gilchrist (Eds.), Crossing Cultures: The Owen and Wagner Collection of Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Art at the Hood Museum of Art (pp. 49-55). Hanover: Hood Museum of Art.


Former Hood Museum of Art director Brian Kennedy once challenged viewers to move beyond facile celebrations of contemporary Aboriginal art and to work toward understanding "the circumstances of those who made them." In this spirit, those interested in the compelling objects in the present collection would do well to heed the words of noted Aboriginal legal scholar Christine Black, who writes that Aboriginal paintings "are not simply works of art, but rather are text or scripts. They are documents that detail the cosmological origins of mankind, the system of law and rights and responsibilities of the individual:' These law stories shed important light on the nature of Aboriginal claims to land, identity, and self-determination in the modern era. Embedded as they are in works of art, they also offer the potential of opening up new and critical spaces for crosscultural understanding and reconciliation in modern Australian society.

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