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Wolfe Creek Crater

Two stories, two families

The artists

The stories

Painting gallery




Track of the Rainbow Serpent
Exhibition of Aboriginal Paintings of the Wolfe Creek Crater

University Museum, University of Pennsylvania
October 23,2004 - March 26, 2005

Curator, Peggy Reeves Sanday


The art of Aboriginal Australians reveals one of the world's oldest continuous cultures, reaching back thousands of years. The earliest examples of Aboriginal art surviving today are the many rock engravings and cave paintings seen across the Australian continent.

Anthropologists tell us that art played a vital role in Aboriginal culture. Designs people once painted on their bodies, etched in the sand, engraved or painted on rocks, incised on weapons and sacred objects, are now rendered on canvas. These designs connect to sacred meanings associated with the ancient Dreamtime when the actions of the great creator beings of Aboriginal cosmology gave form and order to land and society.

The Rainbow Serpent is among the most famous of the creator beings. Archaeologists suggest that the "cult of the Rainbow Serpent" is one of the oldest continuous religious beliefs in the world. All across Aboriginal Australia the Rainbow Serpent is believed to have made tracks through the land creating the rivers, rock holes, and other natural features of the land opening the way for the coming of the First Ancestors.

Through the paintings seen in this exhibition, Aboriginal artists tell family stories of the creation of their ancestral territory by the Rainbow Serpent. At the center of this territory lies the Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater, one of the most acclaimed geological features in Australia . I commissioned the paintings to convey to the general public the spiritual meaning its Aboriginal "owners" attach to the Wolfe Creek Crater.


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