Rock paintings of First Peoples

Indigenous rock paintings

Kakadu National Park hides the largest, oldest and most beautiful rock galleries of the First Peoples known by white man. Some of the paintings are thirty thousand years old and are among the oldest human works on Earth. This longest chronicle of history in the world presents animals, human figures, ghosts, as well as other supernatural beings and ceremonies. I have often wondered how white people can interpret the meanings of the paintings, how they navigate the time horizon of thousands of years and the labyrinth of complex cultural contexts. It was only a few years ago, when I visited Kakadu National Park again in January 2007 and was able to talk to an expert, that I understood.

– Indogenous people do not tell us the true meanings of the paintings. What we get from them is a kind of fairy tale for children, a safe version of the truth - convinced me Ted, an ethnologist who has been working in Kakadu for several years.

- Why is it like that?

– For two reasons. Firstly, it is one of the last bastions of national and religious identity. Secondly, even if they told us the truth and showed us the whole thing, we wouldn't understand anything. Cultural contexts are so complex that our minds cannot comprehend and absorb them. The mythology of Native Peoples is a real maze. The same goes for songs. If they agree to sing you the Song of the Ancestors, you will receive a dummy without any meaning or emotion.

*** Excerpt from Marek Tomalik's book "Australia, where flowers are born from fire" National Geographic 2019

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