Listening Topic: Visual Art – Radio interview about Aboriginal art

A. Listen to an interview about Australian Aboriginal art. As you listen, check the three main points that are made. (All of the points are mentioned)

___  Aboriginal art has lasted a long time.

___  The Aboriginal people are the original native Australians.

___ c   Aboriginal art is about the “dream time.”

___  Aboriginal people didn’t have a written language.

___  The most important thing for the artists is doing the art, not keeping or selling it.

___ f   Some paintings sell for thousands of dollars.

B. Listen to the interview again. As you listen, choose the correct answer for each item. Listen again if necessary.

 One reason that Aboriginal art is so popular is that ____.

      a   it has lasted for thousands of years

      b   the artists live in remote areas

      c   it is done on rocks

 Researchers know that the art is very old because ____.

      a   the Aboriginal people have had little contact with outsiders

      b   the same symbols and patterns have been found in ancient rock carvings

      c   the artists are all old people

 The “dream time” refers to ____.

      a   night time

      b   an imaginary time in the future

      c   the beginning of the world

 Older people do the art because ____.

      a   they have traveled more than younger people

      b   they have more free time

      c   they have memorized many stories

 Which of these phrases best describes the kind of art that the Aboriginal people do?

      a   Landscape painting

      b   Abstract painting

      c   Portrait painting

 For the artists, the art ____.

      a   is less important than the artistic process

      b   is primarily a way to make money

      c   is a way to communicate with their ancestors

 Which is the most recent form of Aboriginal art?

      a   Body painting

      b   Paintings on the ground

      c   Paintings on canvas

 What is one reason that the art has only recently become popular?

      a   Aboriginal culture was not appreciated.

      b   It was too expensive.

      c   The artists gave the paintings away.



a ✓   c ✓   e


1 a   2 b   3 c   4 c   5 b   6 a   7 c   8 a


A = Host, B = Sandra Ellis

A:   Today we’re going to take a look at the latest hot trend among art collectors: Aboriginal art from Australia. My guest today is Sandra Ellis, who is the owner and curator of the Pine Lake Museum of Aboriginal Art. Welcome to the program.

B:   Thank you.

A:   Firstly, why do you think Aboriginal art has become so popular?

B:   Well, one reason is that it’s very old. The Aboriginal people … they’re the original native Australians. They live far from civilization, and they’ve had very little contact with outsiders, so they’ve maintained their culture – and their art – for generations. You can go to remote areas in Australia and see rock carvings that date back at least thirty … 30,000 years. And you can look at the paintings today and these are done by the direct descendants of the prehistoric people. And you’ll see the same images, the same symbols used in the art today. They’ve survived for thousands of years.

A:   I understand the art is connected to the belief system of the people in some way.

B:   Yes. To understand the art, you need to know a little bit about the beliefs of the Aboriginal people. All of the paintings refer to what they call “The Dream Time.”

A:   And what is that?

B:   The Dream Time refers to the time when – according to the Aboriginal people – the world was created and mythical figures, spirits and animals, wandered around the Earth. The people have stories about these figures and what they did. They didn’t have a written language, so the stories were passed down from generation to generation, and the old people used the art as a way of telling the stories to the younger people. That’s why most of the artists are older people. They’ve memorized the stories. Through the art, the people kept the stories alive.

A:   What does a typical Aboriginal painting look like?

B:   Well, you have different local styles, but what you generally see is lots of … lots of lines and dots and circles. So the effect is quite abstract and usually quite colorful. But you’ll notice shapes and symbols that recur again and again. For example, there’s a snake, which may represent water, or a river snaking through the desert. Other figures might represent animals or people. Some paintings work almost like maps: they show a particular place, with water holes, and hills, and camps even. These kinds of paintings are about a Dream Time story that happened in a particular place, but some of them also give information about the place, like the locations of water holes, and trails, and so on.

A:   I see.

B:   But the important thing is that for the artists, the art itself – the product – is really not important. It’s the doing of the art – the process – that’s important. Traditionally the paintings were done as part of a ceremony, and they were done as body painting, or on the ground, and then they were washed away. So they were temporary. It’s only recently, since the 1970s in fact, that the art has ever been done on canvas or paper, so that it can be kept and collected. But it’s still the process, really, that matters to the artists.

A:   And yet their work now sells for tens of thousands of dollars.

B:   Hundreds of thousands! Yes. One major painting sold for nearly $500,000 recently. There are artists’ co-operatives all over Australia, and collectors come from all over the world now. but thirty years ago, you couldn’t give the paintings away. It’s only been recently that the art, and the culture really, has come to be recognized and valued for what it is.

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