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Before Time Today

What determines 'traditional' Aboriginal art in an era when modern media such as aluminium, acrylic paint and even cast-off fishing nets have become the media of choice for contemporary artists? What is the relationship between artworks that share similar forms, but whose ceremonial functions of the past wither beneath the imperatives of cultural and socio-economic survival in the 21st century? This book considers these issues within the context of unique, stunning art from the remote north Queensland Aboriginal community of Aurukun. It explains how Aurukun art production absorbed the colonial impact of mission and government cultural intervention throughout the twentieth century, shifting through demands for cultural display to outsiders and arts and crafts initiatives, and then providing the powerful visual symbols for the political struggles of Aurukun's Wik people to regain land ownership and social justice. Extensive high-quality reproductions of Aurukun's charismatic carvings, weavings and paintings illustrate the inspiring connections between art and life, and demonstrate how a reinvention of artistic tradition fuels creativity and innovation in keeping culture strong and vibrant. The complexity of Aurukun art is approached through a breadth of scholarship in anthropology, art history and curatorship, enriched by the wisdom and insights of Aurukun artists themselves. Before Time Today is about the real world of contemporary Aboriginal art as it happens in Aurukun. It is compelling reading for those who want to look beyond the beautiful surfaces of Aboriginal art into the visual expression of people who have endured dramatic change, and who now embrace it in their lives and in their art.
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