If we have to understand the power and significance of traditional artefacts like the boomerang, we have to study their practical importance. Today, most of the popular sports played in Australia were those instituted during the time of colonization. The only exception to this is ‘boomerang throwing’. Although there is a universal acceptance of the Indigenous origin of the sport of boomerang throwing, new claims are emerging that Australian Rules football has taken many aspects of a traditional Aboriginal ball game called ‘marn-grook’. Jim Poulter, who has done extensive research in this area, has continued to argue since the 1980s that the two apparently unconnected sports are indeed quite similar. (Morwood, 2003, p.78) But, coming back to the practical salience of boomerang throwing, one must recognize the living conditions of primitive Aboriginal tribes at the time of evolution of the sport. Predominantly adapted to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, adults (especially men) were required to be fit, energetic, athletic, dextrous and skilful in order to acquire resources for their families. While play activities and sports might look recreational now, in the original context they were seen as necessary survival skills. In this manner, the adrenaline rush and excitement that is presently generated by organized sports was earlier achieved through innovative modes of survival. And items such as the boomerang exemplify this multi-dimensional nature of native life, where the surrounding environment and the implements with which it were explored and exploited possessed elements of style as well as substance. (Edwards, 2009, p.32)
Finally, an important aspect of native Australian culture that is symbolized through its art forms is the power relations between the genders. Despite their subordinate position to Europoean colonizers, the Aborigines were able to retain their internal social structures. According to sociologist Veronica Strang, this was possible because
“analysis of material culture, representation and the transmission of knowledge in Australia suggests that the concretization of knowledge, symbolic meaning values – and, of course, gender categories – in material objects plays a central role in cultural reproduction. Also, the cultural systems of Aboriginal groups in Australia are demonstrably conservative, being mediated and thus anchored by the land. More controversial, however, is a suggestion based on the argument outlined at the outset: the steel axe remained a ‘male’ object, despite being given to the women, because of the persistence of gender categories which, though cultural in form, are founded upon universal cognitive oppositions intractably linked to anatomical differences and the embodiment of gender experience.” (Strang, 1999, p.75)
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Edwards, K. (2009). Traditional Games of a Timeless Land: Play Cultures in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2009(2), 32+.
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Mcgregor, R. (2004). Develop the North: Aborigines, Environment and Australian Nationhood in the 1930s. Journal of Australian Studies, (81), 33+.
Morwood, M. J. (2003). Visions from the Past : The Archaeology of Australian Aboriginal Art /. St. Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin.
Strang, V. (1999). Familiar Forms: Homologues, Culture and Gender in Northern Australia. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 5(1), 75+.
Tacon, P. S., South, B., & Hooper, S. B. (2003). Depicting Cross-Cultural Interaction: Figurative Designs in Wood, Earth and Stone from South-East Australia. Archaeology in Oceania, 38(2), 89+.
Kleinert, S. 2000. Art and Aboriginality in the south-east. In S. Kleinert and M. Neale (eds.), The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal art and culture, pp. 24047. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
2000. ‘Art and Aboriginality in the south-east’ in The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture. S. Kleinert. and M. Neale. (eds). Oxford: University Press.