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Bush Hen Dreaming

Abie Loy’s ‘Bush Hen Dreaming’ depicts the journey of the Bush Hen, as she roams in search of her favourite fruit, the solanum berries. The Bush Hen Dreaming is significant to the Utopia region in central Australia, and certain persons who are attached to this Dreaming.

The fruit contains small hard stones, as well as seeds, which provides food for birds and other wildlife. The tubers are an important food source for Aboriginal people and can be eaten either roasted or raw.The Aboriginal women pay homage to the Bush Hen ancestor in their awelye ceremonies. Certain songlines and dance cycles are performed. Particular markings are applied to to the upper body to re-enact the Bush Hen ancestor.

Aboriginal culture locates ‘Dreamtime’ as the beginning of all knowledge, from which came the laws of existence. All activities and ways of life- ritual, ceremony and duty relate to this ‘Dreamtime’. Knowledge concerning this beginning of time is sacred and passed down from one generation to the next via ceremony, stories, dance and imagery. Everything in the natural world is a symbolic footprint of the metaphysical beings whose actions created the world. After full tribal initiation, all men and some woman own a ‘dreaming’ and are thus charged with its custodial responsibilities to preserve and pass on this sacred knowledge.

Womens Dreamings tell the story of the journeys of female ancestors. Many of the stories are allied to knowledge relating to desert survival; bush tucker and wildlife food, importance of medicines and female knowledge. Similar to men, women have important religious status and possess their own land tracts and ground designs. During the sacred Womens Ceremonies, participants paint their breasts, shoulders and upper arms and face with patterned designs relating to a particular dreaming. Adorning their bodies is a process; women smear their bodies with animal fat and then using a variety of powders ground from charcoal, red and yellow ochre, imagery is traced onto the body. Different symbols are painted onto the body according to the ceremony subject, time of year and the persons ranking within the social hierarchy. Songs are sung re-iterating ancient journey cycles that pass knowledge but also draw the ancient ancestors closer to the community. Occasionally, woman will dance and re-enact those journeys, dancing and moving their feet through the sand leaving a symbolic pathway.

The Dreaming religion is Aboriginal history, spirit-belief, ancestral knowledge, legend and culture transformed into a language which has no written words or records beyond memory itself.