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Indigenous Symbols, Icons and Imagery

The dotted motifs of much of today’s Aboriginal modern design work has become the trademark of the contemporary Aboriginal Art movement. Its iconic status developed from a culture stretching back into the history of an ancient land, evolving and weaving into desert dreamtime stories.

Bush Berries © Audrey Rubuntja
Bush Berries © Audrey Rubuntja
Berries © Trephina Sultan
Berries © Trephina Sultan Thanguwa

Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for many thousands of years. One of the secrets to their success was their knowledge of nature and ‘bush food’ (‘bush tucker’). Throughout Australia, different plants have been identified as edible by the Indigenous Australian’s over many thousands of years. Among the many plants are many species of bush berries gathered by Aboriginal women and forming a staple part of their diet. Identifying the plants and knowing the plants lifecycle of flowering and fruiting formed part of the knowledge that is past down from elders to children.

Bush Berries (Bush Food) Information

Plants that produced edible berries are depicted in many Aboriginal art work, some specifically identified such as sultanas and bush tomatoes, whilst others are just rendered as ‘bush berries’ encompassing the full range of edible berried plants.

Bush Berries © June Sultan
Bush Berries © June Sultan

Bush berries as depicted in Aboriginal art include a number of edible plants such as the Bush Tomato, Wild Orange, sultana, plum, etc.

In the following work Women Gathering BUsh Tucker by June Sultan are tomato, sultana, plum and orange.

Women gathering bush tucker, 2007 © June Sultan
Women gathering bush tucker – tomato, sultana, plum, orange, 2007 © June Sultan

Indigenous artists may depict them as closely as possible to the real plants, whilst others render them in a stylised form. Some artists may vary the colour to reference to the overall painting, whilst others follow the traditional depiction of berries by their elders or other family members.

The following painting by Audrey Rubuntja is Women Gathering Bush Tucker. The bounty in the middle includes figs (in the middle), oranges, sultanas (green berries), beans, passion fruits and bananas.

Woman gathering bush tucker © Audrey Rubuntja
Woman gathering bush tucker – © Audrey Rubuntja