As a nation we know too little about the wisdom, intellectual power and maturity of Aboriginal culture. I hope my new book, Colouring Country, might open a different window to a greater appreciation of Australia’s Indigenous heritage and our majestic land. In its small way, I hope this book makes understanding a little more accessible, paying tribute to the thousands of generations of Aboriginal people who cared for our continent, sang its songs and nurtured its spirit; who knew all about the power of art to still the mind. Who still do.
Whenever I camp in the bush with the Aboriginal people of our family in the Gulf of Carpentaria, I feel the tranquillity of their way of being. Their unique way of seeing the world is the inspiration for the Balarinji art and stories in Colouring Country. I hope it gives an insight to the richness of Aboriginal life and culture, and some hands-on connection. I have written it to offer to people who colour its pages, a chance to pause, reflect, and share in the beauty of Aboriginal imagery and story.
It’s an all-ages art therapy colouring book – the mental health benefits of colouring books for adults are now well documented. The function of art as a means to bring the mind to the present is something Aboriginal people have practised since time immemorial. They know the spiritual balance and emotional calm it brings. Retracing imagery on rock walls reinvigorates meaning, keeps stories alive, and acknowledges the continuation of nature’s seasons.
Because personal experience is the best motivator of open minds and hearts, I hope this book contributes in some sense to the groundswell of all Australians embracing a shared future. Balarinji has always sought to build bridges, and the bridge I see in this book, is of opening a window of connection to begin to imagine the power of art to express land and belonging.
While Western storytelling uses mostly words, Aboriginal oral history is deeply embedded in visual language. Colouring Country allows the colourist to see the world, for a quiet moment, from an Indigenous perspective.
Watch a time-lapse colouring video of Billabong Camp artwork from Colouring Country, original meditative soundtrack by my son Tim Moriarty:
Colouring Country, An Australian Dreamtime Colouring Book, published April 2016, Murdoch Books.
Featuring full-colour reproductions of 42 Balarinji artworks, each accompanied by a brief description of its context and meaning, together with a colouring-in template for each work. The images in Colouring Country are from the Balarinji Art & Design Archive, held by the National Museum of Australia, Canberra.
Colouring Country helps support Balarinji’s affiliated not-for-profit Nangala Project, to benefit children and youth in remote communities, in particular Indi Kindi, an early literacy program for 0-5s I founded in remote northern Australia in 2012.
You can get your copy of Colouring Country here: http://www.booktopia.com.au