Storytelling and Healing Through Art

Art is a universal language that allows different cultures to communicate, connect and tell their stories. As human beings, we connect emotionally with visual stories and thus, can develop a stronger understanding. Artwork has the powerful ability to pass stories and culture down through the generations, helping people to develop their voice and connect with their ancestry. It is an incredibly important tool for sharing stories, healing and creating understanding through learning.

Indigenous Artist Workshop. Bundarra Apparel. Authentic Indigenous Art Clothing

For thousands of years First Nations people have passed down beliefs, stories, cultural practices, languages and laws through storytelling, song, dance and visual art. Art has always played a crucial role in the communication of all aspects of Indigenous culture. Indigenous artwork has become renowned for its incredible ability to tell intricate stories of country and people. The symbols and icons used show the intimate knowledge of their country, community and beliefs. The telling of stories through art is often managed by family groups with artists inheriting rights to particular cultural stories through their bloodlines. These stories often hold different meanings depending on the viewers age and cultural experience.

Throughout history, Indigenous people have used art as a means of communicating significant matters. It has been a key way of sharing Indigenous perspectives on political issues and Indigenous rights. As talked about earlier, art can have a powerful impact on one's emotions and as such, these messages can have a much stronger effect. It’s so important that Australia continues to wake up and listen to these Indigenous voices. Because art has the power to reach a diverse audience, it also has the ability to create a shared understanding of Indigenous history, culture and connection to country. This is our mission. We aim to share our artists unique stories with a broad audience to create conversations and appreciation of Indigenous art and culture. It is through this appreciation and understanding that connections can be formed and reconciliation and healing can become real.

“Bush Babies” by Community Arts Network (CAN), Noongar, WA. 2010. Sourced from CANWA.

“Bush Babies” by Community Arts Network (CAN)

Art can have a healing effect on people's lives in many ways both physically and emotionally. Creating art provides Indigenous people with a way to connect and socially participate in their community. It connects people to the stories of their ancestors and provides a form of cultural healing. All Abilities art group in Newcastle is making incredible breakthroughs in their art program for Indigenous people with disabilities.

"The concept around art therapy is about regulating your emotions by identifying the emotion with a colour and inventing symbolic features within the paintings to represent people, country or incidents” - Aunty Elsie Randall, All Abilities Program Facilitator

The program has really boosted the participants' confidence, some have found that while focusing on making art they no longer feel like they have a disability. ‘Bush Babies’ is another amazing project which focused on using art as a form of healing. The project was run by Community Arts Network (CAN) in Noongar, WA in 2010. Elders gathered to make dolls and share birthing stories from a time when Indigenous women would have to give birth on missions and reserves because they weren’t allowed in hospitals. The experience was a process of sharing, remembering and healing. At the end of the project, the dolls and stories were displayed in an exhibition that became a successful way of educating the local community about the area's true history. 

Through all of this we can see the powerful positive effects that art can have on everyone. Art provides a crucial way of sharing stories, creating understanding and healing culturally and emotionally. There are huge benefits for both the artist and viewer, so let's all continue to learn about and celebrate Indigenous art.