Origin and Styles of Aboriginal Dot Art

Among the aboriginal people of Australia, the “art” of painting once served as a means of communication. The stories of the past, the daily routine, and the maps to resources are expressed in the form of paintings by the Australian aboriginal people. Dots have been a symbolic part of this art form for ages. In other words, aboriginal dot art is a confluence of ancient everyday rituals and practices that served as a library of critical knowledge for the next generations.

The dots are a significant part of the sand and body painting during the ceremonial rituals of the ancient aboriginal civilisations. They are also carved on ancient rocks and artefacts. The dots are believed to represent the strong aura or energy around the designs or paintings. Some remnants of this ancient art form also have dots that have a shimmery look on the design of Tasmanian paintings

Anthropologically, aboriginal dot art is significant and has a high market value in art exhibitions. While the natives have been sceptical about disseminating the secrets of these paintings, they are currently a source of income for many Indigenous communities in Australia.


The most ancient aboriginal rock painting extracted in an intact form is that of a kangaroo dating back nearly 600 generations! Moving ahead, in 1971, a small aboriginal community of 2,500 people was involved in painting a canvas at the request of their teacher Geoffrey Bardon.

Soon, the glory of aboriginal art started crossing borders in Australia, making indigenous artists self-conscious about their artistic depictions. The painting encompasses the sacred beliefs and secrets related to the clan, which were not meant to be visible to the other indigenous clans and white men, women, and children. So, the artists have used dot techniques like overdotting and heavy layering to hide the sacred elements in their work. However, overdotting is considered more of an artistic design in the present-day context of aboriginal artwork. 

However, the second theory related to the dot painting suggests that the indigenous people of the Central Desert drew a series of lines that were converted into dots during the shift from sand paintings to canvas paintings.

Landscape dots form the essence of the third theory, representing the dots as finer details of the landscape of the aboriginal people, like the bushes, rocks, flowers, and trees. Though multiple theories speak of the origin of aboriginal dot art, one may assume that all have formed the basis of its origin.

Styles of Dot Paintings

1. Papunya Dot Painting Technique

The Papunya community lives close to Alice Springs in Central Australia. This community first started using the dot painting technique in the 1970s, and the artists used the dots to fill the designs. 

The dotting technique also served as a mechanism to hide information about the sacred rituals of the represented community. This helped the community to reveal only certain parts of the story that are permissible to be out in the public domain while hiding the elements that need to be concealed from foreigners through dots.

2. Desert Aboriginal Art

The characteristic feature of Desert aboriginal art is the dotting technique. Papunya, Mt Liebig, Haasts Bluff, Balgo, Utopia, Yuendumu, and other micro-communities have developed their variations of the dot paintings.

3. Pintupi and Utopia Artists 

The community of Pintupi resides in the western deserts of Australia and uses ancient iconographic skills for its designs. They later use dots to emanate the designs. Later, artists developed a dot and drag-style involving linear dot work joined with extended lines.

The utopian artists of the Central desert developed a unique and articulated way of dotting. Their paintings include subtle patterns and motifs in a large space created using dotting techniques.

In Conclusion

The reasons behind the origin of the dotting technique of Australian aboriginal art can be many, but it adds to the significance of the art. The intricate designs and motifs attract art enthusiasts, which increases the value of aboriginal dot art.