Liam M. Brady, Robert G. Gunn, Claire Smith, and Bruno David
This chapter discusses the contribution of ethnography to the study of Australian rock art. With more than 100 years of ethnographic enquiry into rock art from across the country, valuable insights into the meaning, motives, function, and symbolism of images have been identified. However, with this information comes challenges with its use (and abuse), as well as the necessity to understand the cultural contexts of interpretation and meaning-making. This chapter explores the various ways Indigenous Australians (Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders) engage with and describe their understandings of rock art in a variety of contexts. This review also highlights the complex nature of the interpretative process and the ethnographic gaze in which it is embedded. At its core, ethnographic approaches to Australian rock art reveal the multidimensional referential qualities of images found across the landscape.
Valda Blundell, Donny Woolagoodja, Janet Oobagooma, and Leah Umbagai
This chapter focuses on Gonjorong’s Cave, a rock shelter in the Kimberley region of northwest Australia. Gonjorong’s Cave contains paintings of anthropomorphic figures known as Wandjina, a distinctive feature of the Wandjina-Woongudd homeland. The Wandjina-Woongudd Community is a distinct society of Australian Aboriginal people that includes the Woddordda. This chapter first provides a background on Gonjorong’s Cave and the role of Wandjina paintings in creating the distinctive Wandjina-Woongudd cultural landscape. It then examines the meanings of Wandjina in the Woddordda’s present-day lives, with particular emphasis on why they consider it important to regularly visit sites such as Gonjorong’s Cave. It shows that rock art sites such as Gonjorong’s Cave provide evidence of the Woddordda’s deep history as the Traditional Owners of their homeland.