Ansicht des Finke River in Australien
© SKD, Foto: Erhard Schwerin

Painted Land. Watercolours of the Aranda of Central Australia

The Aranda live in the desert region in the centre of the Australian continent. Their territory is characterised by rugged hills and mountain ranges, gorges and sandy red plains on which acacia and eucalyptus trees grow.

  • DATES 06/02/2016—16/05/2016


Down to the present day, the people have preserved their rich tradition of ceremonies, songs and stories describing the land and its flora and fauna. In extensive ceremonial cycles the indigenous people ensure the preservation of nature and all the living beings within it. As part of these ceremonies, sand drawings were produced which described certain sacred places using symbols and many dots in an abstract form. After the ceremonies they were destroyed. These sand drawings constantly renewed and reinforced the close relationship between the Aranda and their land.

Aquarellzeichnung eines Gebirgszugs in Australien
© SKD, Foto: Erhard Schwerin
Elaine Namatjira, Corroboree Rock Aquarell auf Karton


In Hermannsburg, a small Lutheran mission station located 120 km from Alice Springs, the first centre of modern aboriginal art was established.

Inspired by the English painter Rex Battarbee, Albert Namatjirra, an Aranda, began to paint watercolour landscapes in the 1930s. He soon gained success and fame. The course of his life came to epitomise the conflicts between the old traditional way of life and the constrictions imposed by legislation relating to the indigenous population of Australia. This classical style of landscape painting, which depicts landscapes and sacred places in the central Australian Western Desert, is now known in the art world as the Hermannsburg or Aranda School of painting.



The Hermannsburg watercolours are characterised by soft hues and a high degree of naturalism. Unlike the Dot paintings with their secret iconography, they are immediately comprehensible whilst also perplexing the viewer through the unusually intensive red and purple colours which really do occur in the evening twilight in the mountains of the Western MacDonnell Ranges, lending exceptional beauty to the natural scenery. The watercolours mainly show places which provide water for the human population and which are associated with the sacred creation stories of the Dreamtime.

The paintings on display are part of the Australia collection of the Grassi Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig. It is the only relatively large collection of Hermannsburg watercolours in Europe.

Foto einer Kirche in Australien
© SKD, Foto: Birgit Scheps
Alte Kirche der Mission in Hermannsburg, 2006

weitere Ausstellungen

Further Exhibitions

Museum für Völkerkunde Dresden

im Japanischen Palais

reich verzierte Holztür mit Fenster

Völkerkundemuseum Herrnhut

in Völkerkundemuseum Herrnhut

Buddha in einem Schrein
26/06/2016 —16/10/2016
ein goldener Amulettbehälter
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