Aboriginal Dot Painting with children
Educators consistently strive to engage children in respectful conversations and activities designed to increase awareness and understanding of Aboriginal cultures.
For many Educators the go to cultural experience is the dot painting. While the intent is well meaning there are a few protocols we would like to share with you when undertaking dot paintings with children to help support cultural respect.
Dot paintings are individual stories as told by the painter and the storyteller. It is not respectful to copy someone else’s story without giving the author and painter credit.
“Sharing the cultural art of dot paintings with children needs to be respectful and authentic”
Respect for Aboriginal culture and the art of Dot painting as a story telling technique is the basis of this experience with children. Natural materials are preferable where possible and will assist you to weave in conversations about the environment and support children to become environmentally responsible (NQS element 3.2.3 ). So gather the children and go in search of some sticks, paperbark, smooth rocks or any other natural materials that have a surface you can use to tell a story on.
Sit in circle and yarn with the children, share a dream time story, bring the artwork and dot paintings to the children’s attention. Talk about the artwork as a culturally traditional way of telling stories and the dots as a technique used in the artwork. That stories are used as a way of passing down Aboriginal culture throughout the generations. Draw on the 2018 NAIDOC Week theme of “Because of her we can”. Invite children to share their stories of someone who has supported or encouraged them in some way to do better or be better.
Using the sticks you have gathered, dipped in natural/ earthy coloured paints encourage the children to share their story through the art of dot painting. You might like to connect with local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples who can help you source some ochre to grind and use as paint.
Displaying the artwork
When the children have completed their dot paintings display them respectfully with the accompanying story and the child’s name. Just as you would see Aboriginal Dot Paintings displayed with the artists name and the story of the artwork.
Aboriginal symbols can be used to introduce children to Aboriginal culture and story telling or to build on existing knowledge and expand on their story telling strategies from earlier Dot painting experiences. Children can be supported or encouraged to make their own symbol stones by painting Aboriginal symbols onto stones which can then be incorporate in their story telling. The use of Aboriginal symbols can also be used in the sandpit or on the ground where ever you are to visualize stories with children.
Here is an example of story telling using symbols as told by Educators from Bright Start Child Care in July 2017 at Indigiscapes with Aunty Stella and April Cunningham. Aunty Stella is of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and both ladies are proud Noonuccal women from Stradbroke Island QLD.
Links to the NQS
Element 1.1.1 Curriculum decision-making contributes to each child’s learning and development outcomes in relation to their identity, connection with community, wellbeing, confidence as learners and effectiveness as communicators.
Element 1.2.1 Educators are deliberate, purposeful, and thoughtful in their decisions and actions.
Element 3.2.3 The service cares for the environment and supports children to become environmentally responsible.
Element 6.2.3 The service builds relationships and engages with its community.