It has been carried
out for thousands of years. As with other aspects of Aboriginal
culture, the body paintings varied depending on the tribe and where in
each tribe lived.
Kinds of Body Decorations
Australian Aboriginal people
used different types of body decorations such as body painting, face
painting, ornaments, feathers, and scaring. All those were more than
They all had a meaning, they related to laws, religions and
conventions. They were a means of communication - they showed what age
and status the person had and what relationship the person had to
his/her family group. Different symbols were used in body painting,
which told a lot about the person. Combinations of symbols could tell a
story. A person couldn’t just go and change his/her painting, and
people didn’t paint themselves – it was a task of a relative.
Aboriginal body painting by alexwon16 via Flickr.com
The body decorations vary between different regions. But commonly they
had a deep spiritual significance, and in many cultures they were
mainly used during religious
ceremonies. During the ceremonies, body painting and dance together
indicated the relationship Aboriginal people had to nature, their land,
their ancestors, animals and environment. The colours used also varied
between regions. Ochre paints were often used where available. Other
source of colours was clay. In some cultures,
the colours were paired, for example yellow and
white, pink and red would go together.
Ornaments and Other Decorations
Ornaments used also varied depending on the region and tribe. Necklaces
were made of animal teeth, bones and bird feathers. Coastal communities
also made necklaces of shells. Scarring was used by men, and it showed
the person’s social status. It was done by cutting the skin with a
sharp rock or shell, and then rubbing ash or other irritating materials
into the scar, which created permanent scars and discolouration of the
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