Dream Traces. Exhibition catalogue

Dream Traces.

Dream Traces.

Australian Aboriginal Bark Paintings

Edited by Roberta COLOMBO DOUGOUD and Barbara MÜLLER

Exhibition catalogue. Gollion: Infolio editions / Geneva: Musée d'ethnographie, 176 pages.

N° ISBN 978-2-88474-198-9.

Price: 25 CHF.


Following the European colonisation of Australia, the Aborigines came to be thought of as one the most primitive people on Earth and denied all artistic sensibility. Since the 1950s, however, their artworks have been discovered by anthropologists and art dealers. Today, Australian Aboriginal culture is arousing growing interest and admiration, with acrylic or bark paintings on display in ethnographic museums, art galleries and museums, and avidly sought by art collectors.

This book is devoted to bark paintings from Australia, particularly from the regions of Arnhem Land and Kimberley. The illustrations present the collection of the MEG and other Swiss museums. The images reproduced in this volume exemplify the artistic and symbolic qualities of these barks, which are still used during Aboriginal rituals for the transmission of their sacred knowledge.

Several international specialists present their analysis and interpretation of the bark paintings, their historic and cultural role, as well as their current place in the contemporary art market. They demonstrate how the Aborigines have entered the international art market and given their paintings a political dimension, helping them to assert their identity, support their land rights claims and return to their ancestral homelands.



Boris Wastiau

"Miny'tji Wanawuy Narakawuy": Paintings are the Backbone of the Land and Sea

Joe Neparrna Gumbula


Roberta Colombo Dougoud, Christian Delécraz and Barbara Müller

1 Work of Art and Act of Identity: Bark Painting Motifs

"These paintings tell us who we are": the Foundations of Aboriginal Art from Northern Australia

Jessica De Largy Healy

Materials and Pigments

Jessica De Largy Healy

2 Dream Traces: Selected Barks

Reflections on the Constitution of a Collection

Roberta Colombo Dougoud and Barbara Müller

Water, Earth and Sky


Secular and Sacred Life




From Dreaming to the Outside World: the Ebb and Flow of Traces…

3 Circulating Dreams: from Aboriginal Lands to the Art Market

From Ritual Grounds to Western Collections: Painting as a Political Act

Jessica De Largy Healy

Ritual and Political Networks among Aborigines in Northern Australia. Ancestral Pathways Across the Seas

Barbara Glowczewski

Bark Painters and their Market

Luke Taylor

The Recognition of Aboriginal Art and the Building of Collections

Howard Morphy