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Beyond the Dreamtime

Notes & Bibliography


Notes on the Illustrations

Aged somewhere between fifteen and twenty.
The hair is black, longish and lank. Certain oils are present giving it a matted straight appearance. This is due to application of animal fats etc. as an aid to the shedding of water and sweat, and does not give an accurate guide to hair formation.
The nose is somewhat aquiline and not characteristic of Australian indigenous peoples.
In outline it resembles that common to present day Arabs, Ethiopians and Singhalese.
The lips are full and similar to those of the Vedda, an early race inhabiting the forests of Ceylon: Sri Lanka. The eyes are dark, wide-spaced but slightly gley; that is squinted obliquely. They appear cruel.
The cheekbones are raised and prominent in Mongolian manner.
There is a scar running from beneath the right nostril to the upper lip.
Lines occur around eyes and mouth giving him the appearance of someone much older by modern standards. The horns are here depicted as representational only.
Possibly this is the image his mother Tani believed she saw after the birth of his half-sister.

His naked figure beneath the night sky begins the faltering steps of dance ritual; arms out-thrust for balance.
The head is turned toward fire on the horn-curved horizon, which echoes both symbols of power; fire and animal.
The black area beneath the feet, as in other early illustrations, belongs to the unknown.
The figure itself, depicted as a mature adult, is universal to the male form from birth to old age.

Here is how Yat saw the strong of the tribe, and how in childhood he desired himself to be.
The unflinching pose and musculature are self-deluding exaggerations of the reality.
The compositional placement gives a hint of the actual uncertainty and fear embedded in his subconscious, and that of all peoples of the times.
The lighting is reversed to create imbalance, and the placement of the figure facing into day does not offset the looming darkness of night at its back.
The outward show of strength is a display against vulnerability.
In the shadows, top left, is the vague suggestion of paired horns.

The skull of the drill, or that of Yat's Great Warrior.
In both cases there is association with death and resurrection; a pulse of some unreal light imagined in its eyeless sockets.
Above it the horned symbol of the shaman, the sickle moon. Here, in the first instance, Yat arose from seeming death: in the second, he elevated the object in the estimation of his people to that of totem power; that of Man's dominance over all foes, past or present.

Visions of Yat 's recurring nightmare.
Above, the agony and trauma of Cun 's first child: deformed and dead at birth.
Yat's subconscious guilt.
Beneath, Yat's murder of those too weak to save during his people's flight from danger.
Both events staining the shaman's hands with blood, and leaving him with questions he is unable to answer; is there punishment for taking another's life, and is that the death of his own flesh and blood?

The bloodied hand reversed.
Opposable fingers and thumb; Man's own physical tool, capable of violence, healing, power, gentleness and craft. Guided by the mind and the will.
The people guided by the personality and reason that moves the hand.
Twelve fingers of the shaman.
Twelve figures of the tribe upon the natural earth colours of pigment and charcoal.

Fear of water and the giants of the deep.
Twelve fingers raised against the unknown. Yat's people in his own hands.
The curved skyline as horn symbol.
The sky as earth colour and safety.

A symbolic homage to the elements; water and earth. The drinking in of water and of life.
Man, in the posture of animal; reflecting his own basic nature and needs.
The meeting of water and earth.

The hand as fire maker and user.
The riddle of fire; friend and foe. Protection and fear. The shaman and his tenuous hold over it and his people. Worship of flame, heat, energy and, by extension, the sun.

The vast unknown, that is at once familiar and unfamiliar; beautiful, sombre, awesome, serene.
The endless, changing sky; restless and moody.
The colours and contours of the landscape.
Progression of a nomadic people.
The way of the clan that will be tribe, and later, community.

Air, light and wind.
Sun and cloud, rainbow after storm, lightning and thunder. Light following darkness.
Living air, home of winged creatures; last of the regions for Man to embrace.
Yat's groping to come to terms with the sky enigma.
The upraised arms as horn symbol.

Man's metamorphosis from the flesh into the bones of the earth.
His ascension into lore and legend of a distant time when he was deemed to have roamed the country of his own design and making as Spirit.
The fusion of early peoples into the flora and fauna of the land.
Yat and his generation vanish from the face of the earth; their only echo of ever existing is that left on and in the weathering stone.

Throughout the twelve illustrations there is a general trend from dark backgrounds and subject matter to lighter forms in progression.
Repetitive themes of hands, horns, and horizon lines, as well as the twelve figures, which carry the dual role of finger and people symbols, reflect only the general feel of the written work, and are not representative of Australian art.


The Original Australians A. A. Abbie.(1969. Rigby.)
The Seacraft of Prehistory Paul Johnstone. (1980. Routledge and Kegan Paul. London and Henley.)
The Land and Wildlife of Australasia (1965. Time Life. Nature Library.)
Gods and Myths of Northern Europe H. R. Ellis Davidson. (1964. Pelican.)
The Aborigines R. M. Gibbs. (1974. Longman Cheshire.)
The Story of Language C. L. Barber. (1964. The Chaucer Press Ltd. Pan Books.)
Fossils and Families Janet Mathews. (1981. Collins.)
Ascent to Civilization John Gowlett. (1984. Collins.)
The Aboriginal Peoples Aldo Massola. (1969. Cypress Books.)
Prehistoric Societies Grahame Clark & Stuart Piggot. (1965. Pelican.)
The Land and Wildlife of Tropical Asia (1965. Time Life Nature Library.)


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