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Returning Indigenous knowledge in central Australia: 'this CD-ROM brings everybody to the mind' / Returning Indigenous knowledge in central Australia. AIATSIS Conference 2001 / Barbara Glowczewski /  Australia/ Australie

in a group of one gender only. This tension between autonomy and interdependence is relayed in the social order by different rules: one should marry outside of his or her own totemic group; custody of land and totemic transmission tend to be restricted to the patrilineal group which shares the same totemic name; but some places are shared by different groups. If the Rain Dreaming is the responsibility of one group, rainmaking benefits everybody. Similarly, the rituals for the Kangaroo Dreaming benefit everybody, not only as a main source of meat, but also because this marsupial Ancestor is connected with an initiation that applies to all Warlpiri men (and many other tribes too). Each totemic group in the society—like men and women as opposite genders—has a complementary role to play which is constantly renegotiated in relation to land.
A dynamic tradition: the language of prints
Warlpiri people and their neighbors in the desert say that painting is feeding the body and the mind, each painting has a Dreaming name, Jukurrpa, the trail of an animal, a plant or another Ancestor like fire or rain. The totemic signs which are ritually drawn on the body, the sacred objects or the ground, are also painted on canvas for sale in galleries all around the world.
This oral commentary in English (or French)—the only one after the introduction of the CD-ROM—accompanies an interactive contents page presenting a mosaic of 32 paintings with their totemic names and a column of fifteen signs. When the mouse is dragged over any of these paintings—produced on canvases, bodies or ritual objects— some of the signs listed on the right of the screen turn from white to yellow: these are the signs used in the selected painting. When the mouse is dragged over one of the fifteen signs, some of the paintings’ titles turn from white to yellow, indicating the paintings that contain those signs. This interactive presentation allows the same signs to be used in paintings connected to different Dreamings. In other words, Warlpiri signs, like other desert signs, are polysemic, and cannot be read as conventional icons or hieroglyphs to decipher.
After clicking on the painting vignette, the viewer accesses a page showing other paintings of the same totem. The viewer can then click again to see the painting in full screen with related explanations or call for the artist’s file (with links to the artist’s other contributions in the CD-ROM). The paintings and their specific signs all have meanings, but these are contextualised according to a minimal iconic rule: the signs reflect the position in space of the objects or concepts to which they refer. A circle can be a place or any object that leaves a circular imprint on the land, a line is a sleeping person or a link between two places, a meander line also expresses a link between two places, but when the totem follows a meander road, such as a creek, it expresses yam roots or fire. Half circles (U shapes) are persons (or other beings) sitting on the ground. A male will be identified when the tools placed next to him are a spear or a woomera (a line and an oval with a little tail for the spear thrower), a female will be identified by a shorter stick and an oval representing her coolamon dish. An arrow can refer to any bird—including the non-flying emu—and an E shape to a possum, because these are the tracks these animals leave on the ground. Some signs are combined into a recognised totemic design, but other combinations of signs are common to several totems (for instance, two or three circles connected by two or three straight or meander lines).
Beyond this minimal coding of the print system, no further deciphering of the paintings can be done unless the artist provides the meaning of the signs, the story and

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Archives de chercheurs: Barbara Glowczewski [Collection(s) 28]
Returning Indigenous knowledge in central Australia: 'this CD-ROM brings everybody to the mind' [Set(s) 834]
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Object(s) ID 86908
Permanent URI
Title/DescriptionReturning Indigenous knowledge in central Australia. AIATSIS Conference 2001
Author(s)Barbara Glowczewski
Location Australia/ Australie
Coordinateslat -35.27 / long 149.08

Copyright Barbara Glowczewski
Rank 9 / 16
Filesize 906 Kb | 1766 x 2500 | 8 bits | image/jpeg
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Quote this document Glowczewski, Barbara 2001 [accessed: 2020/7/7]. "Returning Indigenous knowledge in central Australia. AIATSIS Conference 2001" (Object Id: 86908). In Returning Indigenous knowledge in central Australia: 'this CD-ROM brings everybody to the mind'. ODSAS:
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