Aboriginal Animal Art

Japingka Aboriginal Art Gallery presents a range of paintings featuring Australian animals from Indigenous artists and regions. The diversity of styles and imagery reflects the many different approaches by the various Aboriginal cultural groups across the country.

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  • Emu Art

    Emu and Bush Turkey

    Emu paintings in Aboriginal art show many aspects of the life cycle of the emu – tracks, nesting, food sources & Dreaming sites and stories

  • Snake Art

    5 Jimmy Pike - Rainbow Snake Dreaming 08222

    Snake artworks in Aboriginal Australia show the symbolic powers attributed to the snake, as an underground force and also as the Water spirit – Japingka

  • Rainbow Serpent Art


    Paintings by Aboriginal artists featuring the Rainbow Serpent dreamtime story.The Rainbow Serpent in Aboriginal culture is a Dreamtime or Creation spirit associated with water. He is represented in many different forms by artists of different Aboriginal groups.

  • Goanna Art

    Goanna paintings in Aboriginal art, images that show traditional bush food and Ancestor images from Creation stories of the desert.

  • Kangaroo Art

    Kangaroo and Parrots

    Kangaroo paintings from Aboriginal artists across Australia show this valuable animal as a food source, a totemic Ancestor and prized part of the natural world.

  • Turtle Art

    Jack Dale Mengenen - Long Necked Turtles and Gorima Wandjinas

    Turtle paintings in Aboriginal art, showing one of the prized bush foods of Aboriginal people and the special markings or Rarrk from Arnhemland.

  • Lizard Art

    Ngintake Perentie Lizard

    A collection of original paintings and artworks by Australian Indigenous artists featuring the Lizard and related dreamtime stories.

  • Fish Art

    Aboriginal paintings of the fish from all regions of Australia – common species include bream, cod, catfish, dhufish, barramundi and eel, caught with traps, nets and spears.

  • Barramundi Art

    Barramundi Dreaming

    Barramundi paintings in Aboriginal art – the prized fish of northern Australia is seen in rock art thousands of years old, and still in artworks today featured at Japingka Gallery.

  • Crocodile Art

    Awurrapun – Crocodile Story

    Crocodile art is seen in the work of Aboriginal artists from the north of Australia, connected with hunting and with Creation stories and totems.

  • Stingray Art


    Stingray artworks show a symbol of stealth and power in Aboriginal society and a totem for northern Australia, as well as a food source for hunters & an Ancestor spirit.

  • Bird Art

    Waterbird & Nest

    Birds feature in Aboriginal paintings & carvings, representing physical & spiritual aspects of nature – Indigenous artists from all regions at Japingka


How Animals Are Used in Aboriginal Art

Animals are regularly used as a source for symbols and metaphor in all societies. In Aboriginal Australia where the original inhabitants were principally hunters rather than farmers, they relied on the native animals around them for food. And therefore these animals were the ones they turned to for use as symbols in art and story legend. At the heart of many Dreamtime stories and images in Aboriginal art are the wide range of Australian animals from land and sea.

Aboriginal groups in Australia have always maintained a close relationship with their environment and the animals around them. With 50,000 years of co-existence Aboriginal people have a deep knowledge of the animals and the cycle of life. Animals are central to Aboriginal survival as a food source. They are also absorbed into the culture as images of totemic power and into the Dreamtime Creation stories that link the people, land and animals.

Aboriginal rock art is some of the oldest existing on earth and these paintings show the presence of animals that have since become extinct in that part of the country. One famous example of this is the Thylacine or Tasmanian tiger, which appears in rock art of northern Australia, where it has long been extinct. The rock art sites show the history of the environment and the changes that have taken place over millenia, as recorded by Aboriginal artists.

Aboriginal paintings from the northern areas of Australia tend to be more figurative, showing a realistic image of the animals. Sometimes they also show the animal from the inside, using the x-ray style. This is relevant to hunters who relate to the animals in terms of being a food source.
Aboriginal creation stories are embedded in Dreamtime law and this often links animals to the creation sites on Country and to the people who are custodians of these sites. The Ancestors who created the landscape are seen as the direct link to modern day people and animals.

Animals are represented in the songlines or Creation journeys of the Ancestors. These tracks cross over all areas of Australia. Major songlines are linked to Goanna, Budgerigar, Dingo, Possum, Emu and many other significant animal species. Artwork from Central Australia tends to reflect the hunter and tracker view of the world. Animals are often shown by the tracks they leave in the sand. These tracks can reflect both the Ancestor and the present day animals.

This section on Aboriginal animal art aims to bring many different images by Indigenous artists to provide an overview of the place of naimals in Aboriginal culture.

All the artworks from these pages are available for sale by enquiry. We hope you find this survey of art a useful way to view the collection.

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