Anthro 33: Culture and Communication

  Study Questions for Aboriginal Art
Morphy, H. London: Phaidon,1998.
[updated March 2, 2002]
  1. What did you learn from Morphy's book about the social organization of Australian aborigines?
  2. Why does Morphy say that Aboriginal art in Australia at first was invisible?
  3. What is the contrast that Morphy draws between Aboriginal art and Western art?
  4. What are the four factors eventually contributing to the recognition of Aboriginal art in Australia and the movement from museums to art galleries?
  5. What is aboriginal rock art and what do we learn from it?
  6. "Paintings on rocks become a record of past lives that affect the present while the act of painting is a way of making things belong to oneself." (Morphy 1998:64) Discuss.
  7. What is the role of ancestral beings in creating human forms?
  8. What other aspects of Aboriginal beliefs about life and death are described by Morphy? How do they relate to the art?
  9. How is the concept of indexicality relevant to understanding Aboriginal art?
  10. What do the paintings represent?
  11. What are some of the conventions used in Aboriginal paintings? E.g. What do circles (or semicircles, wavy lines, dots) represent?
  12. How do people learn what a painting means?
  13. What is the relationship between the painting and myth/stories/songs?
  14. What are the stories and songs about?
  15. Did the paintings change over time? How so? For instance, what are some of the graphic conventions that developed when artists started to use acrylic paintings?
  16. Who are aboriginal paintings for?
  17. What are the consequences of producing these paintings for the people themselves?
  18. How does gender play a role in this type of art?
Study Questions for Interview with Prof. Fred Myers (NYU, Anthropology) on Pintupi Art.
[updated March 2, 2002]
  1. What did you learn from the interview with Prof. Fred Myers (NYU)about what the paintings represent?
  2. What did have to say about changes brought about in Australian Aboriginal art by the art market?
  3. When do people start to paint and under which circumstances?
  4. In what sense does Myers say that interpretation of the painting was not an indigenous problem?
  5. What did you learn about the role of art in ceremonies?
  6. From a methodological point of view, how would characterize the style of Duranti's interviewing?