Your Guide to Buying Aboriginal Artworks
Buying art is about aesthetics and taste, but beyond that about making an irrevocable emotional connection. For some of us who buy art as an investment, or others who are looking for artworks to add to their collection, it is about the appreciation of art and gauging its true commercial value.
As the quest differs from person to person, it is important to establish your reasons for buying art. However, when it comes to the nitty gritty, our advice and recommendations can make buying art a fulfilling exercise rather than a blind leap of faith.
We have over 30 years of experience with art consulting.
Based on our expertise, here are a few guidelines we advise while purchasing Aboriginal artworks:
1. Authenticity: This is perhaps the key while buying artworks. Look out for authentic artworks by established or emerging artists. Most galleries or the artists themselves will be able to provide you with a certificate of authenticity and provenance.
Good provenance will leave no doubt in your mind that the artwork is authentic and genuine. There is information here about the ownership, location, artist and purchase history of the artworks.
2. Quality: This is another determining factor. Check the materials on which the artworks are rendered – wood, canvas, linen, glass or any other medium. The materials should be of good quality. The quality of the paints, colours, feathers, stones or accompanying materials is important too.
Good quality artworks will last long and stand the test of time. For example, good quality Belgian linen is durable, protects the paint from damage and is a great medium to showcase beautiful art.
3. Counterfeit art: While it is not easy to check for counterfeit or plagiarised art, the provenance should be a good starting point. Always investigate and take advice from established references. Look at the symbols, the medium, the artist signature…there are a hundred tell-tale signs if you look carefully.
And finally, if the deal sounds too good to be true, chances are it actually is. Trust your sense of judgement – the art may be fake, or worse, stolen.
Buying a didgeridoo that resonates with your spirit is a pleasure beyond imagination. And you have to sift through innumerable instruments before you find that perfect fit. With Creative Native, we can shorten your search significantly by matching an instrument to your persona within a few short tries.
As with the artworks, finding a didgeridoo requires making some careful checks. Here is our guide:
1. Quality: A good quality didgeridoo will act as an extension to your body. It will be a natural fit.
Look for a didgeridoo that is well-built, has good tonal qualities and resonance. You may prefer didgeridoos that have been hollowed out by termites. The timber should be well-seasoned and sturdy.
2. Shape and construction: Didgeridoos often come in a variety of shapes and sizes. However, there are two broad types – the conical and the cylindrical.
The conical didgeridoos are generally chosen by those who have mastered circular breathing. The cylindrical didgeridoos, on the other hand, are tapered with a small mouthpiece. This construction makes it easier to play. Try playing the didgeridoo before you buy it.
3. Craftsmanship: Didgeridoos are ceremonial instruments and for this reason, they come decorated with a variety of intricate designs and motifs. Handcrafted instruments that carry these symbols are blessed by the spirits.
Look at the designs carved out or painted on your instrument. These symbols often reveal deep meaning. Check the finish – glossy, matte, or painted. And other materials such as stone, glass or feathers that may be used to decorate the instrument.
A didgeridoo full of exquisite details is an artwork that can be proudly exhibited in your home, as well as played for pleasure.
Amazing Australian Aboriginal Artefacts
Here’s our little knowledgebase of amazing facts that will help you uncover a little more about Aboriginal artworks:
The didgeridoo is commonly claimed to be the world’s oldest wind instrument. And the traditional construction and craftmanship follow an elaborate technique.
It begins by finding a tree, a tree of the right shape that had been eaten out by termites. Cutting it down with a sharp instrument and stripping it of its bark.
Using a spear to push the debris through the hollowed trunk and then forcing hot coals through to kill off any remaining termites. This also has the effect of sterilising the didgeridoo.
Then for the most secret process, the carving and the painting on of the sacred symbols associated with the ceremony about to take place.
The didgeridoo is painted with special Shamanic totems that have the ability to transform and journey between worlds. For example, a frog can move between land and water, and a lizard can move on the ground as well as under it.
After using a didgeridoo for one occasion, it is either destroyed or buried in the mud for use at a later date. This is done to prevent women and uninitiated males from seeing the ritualistic symbols.
Anyone who has listened to several didgeridoos will notice that no two sound alike. Every instrument is unique and no modern instrument can replicate its resonance. The didgeridoo is the most recognised Aboriginal musical instrument that has also made its way into the field of contemporary music.
The uses of a boomerang are wide and varied and the Aboriginals consider it a highly prized possession. It finds its use to light a fire, as a digging implement, in hunting while hunting for game, and as a musical instrument.
At a corroboree or a tribal gathering, two boomerangs would be used with one another, clapping them together to accompany song and dance.
However, its most common use was for hunting down food. It would be thrown into a group of flocking birds striking them and bringing down more than one. Or while hunting larger land animals.
Boomerangs are shaped from wood and Mulga wood is commonly used. Black Wattle, Bat Willow, Needlewood or Mangrove are other common choices.
Depending on the area of their origin, boomerangs are painted with ochre and inscribed with designs representing totemic clans and journeys taken by spirits. They are sometimes left blank in their natural state.
Aboriginal creation accounts describe how the Australian landscape was formed and shaped by the ancestors in the Dreamtime. Many features of the land were created by spears, clubs and boomerangs which were hurled into mountains, deserts, rivers and seas.
The Boab Nuts
Boab nuts are found in the Kimberly region of Western Australia. There are several varieties available, each with a distinct colour – ranging from rusty reds to dark browns and all shades in between.
Boab nuts are a popular snack, especially with young children.
The velvety skin is usually brushed off after the nut has been dried out for several days. Then the designs are carefully inscribed with a sharp instrument. Designs and motifs are also occasionally painted on the nuts.
The Emu Callers
Emu callers are an Aboriginal hunting tool. Just like the didgeridoos, the emu callers too are made from branches that are hollowed out by termites. As the name suggests they are used to call emus.
When the emu callers are shaken and struck on the palm, they make an unusual sound that serves as a call. The sound arouses the curiosity of the emu birds in the vicinity. Once the birds were in sight and distracted by the sounds, Aboriginal hunters would either hunt down the emu or steal eggs from their nest.
Clapsticks are also called the ‘Bilmi’ In the language of the Yolungu Aboriginals of Northeast Arhem Land. These musical instruments have been traditionally used in Corroborees or tribal gatherings for thousands of years as an accompaniment to didgeridoo, song and dance.
By holding one clapstick loosely in one hand and striking it with the other, you can create a nice beat. Experiment with the placement of the two clapsticks and strike to achieve a clear resonant sound.
The bullroarer consists of a thin flat piece of wood suspended from a string. It is held and whirled around at an arm’s length. The instrument makes a delightful whirring sound that grows louder the faster it is swung.
Because these instruments are held in great reverence, it is customary for them to be decorated with paint. Usually, totemic designs such as spirals are inscribed and painted on them.
The Emu Eggs
Emu eggs are traditionally gathered as a food source by the Aboriginal peoples. For their large size and capacity, they can be used as water carriers on long journeys. They are also enjoyed as food - roasted on hot embers, cooked in their shell, broken open and eaten.
Carving a fragile egg is a delicate art that requires great skill and patience. Emu eggs are a deep flecked green colour. The carver has to take away several layers, seven in all, to reveal an inner shell that is then decorated.
Typically carved out of wood, and generally made by men, coolamons look like mini canoes with curved sides.
They vary in size and are usually between 30cm to 70cm in length. Coolamons were traditionally used by Aboriginal women to carry fruits, nuts, bush tucker, water and their even babies!