Memory and Performance: The Role of Rock Art in the Kimberley, Western Australia

Sue O’connor, Jane Balme, Mona Oscar, June Oscar, Selina Middleton, Rory Williams, Jimmy Shandley, Robin Dann, Kevin Dann, Ursula K. Frederick, Melissa Marshall

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The Kimberley region of northwest Australia is well known for its extensive Aboriginal rock art. The rock art of the recent past is particularly diverse and includes painting, drawing, scratchwork, pecking, engraving, and beeswax applique. Frequently, contrasting techniques are used to augment or mark existing images, suggesting that this is associated with a complex performative narrative. This evidence, together with the oral testimony of Aboriginal people, indicates that it is the doing of the art and the reiteration of the story it tells, rather than the artwork itself, that is of importance. The performance aspect of the art may be an essential part of ensuring resource renewal and simultaneously a mnemonic that binds the performer through action to the narratives of the creative Beings and the events depicted. Re-marking of art, by re-touching, or otherwise adding to an existing image with new techniques, thus serves as a reminder of the story, both to the performer and the viewer. Today the stories of Wandjinas and other creative Beings continue to be remembered and recounted by reproducing them on paper and other modern mediums.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRock Art and Memory in the Transmission of Cultural Knowledge
EditorsLeslie F. Zubieta
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783030969424
ISBN (Print)9783030969417
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2022


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