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Is It Authentic?

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

When it comes to "Aboriginal Style" artwork, it probably is fake. The phrase "Aboriginal style" stipulates that a person has created artwork of a particular style, usually to copy or mass produce items, whether it be artwork such as painting or cultural items such as boomerangs, yidaki (didgeridoo), coolamons, bull-roarers, etc.

It is not illegal to sell fake Aboriginal-style souvenirs under Australian Competition and Consumer (ACCC) laws. However, First Nations culture is its own identity and should not be exploited by anyone. The art itself expresses personal stories and songs of culture and people. When these works are copied, it denigrates the cultural identity of First Nations people and becomes a misrepresentation of Aboriginal culture.

Some people including businesses in foreign countries believe they can copy cultural works without providing any recognition to First Nations people. Despite 'good intentions,' replicating an artwork is not only unethical but may be offensive to First Nations people, particularly where there is a lack of understanding behind culture and the replicated artwork itself i.e. some paintings contain sacred knowledge that is not intended to be painted by the opposite sex.

'We are enough', Charlotte Allingham. Charlotte is a Wiradjuri, Ngiyampaa artist from New South Wales with family ties to Condobolin and Ivanhoe communities. Charlotte is known for her detailed and bold illustrations that explore her cultural identity and the impacts of colonisation in Australia for Indigenous people. With highly detailed and bold illustrations, Charlotte challenges the perception of Indigenous people in a range of themes of modern subcultures, occultism and First Nation's futurism. Covering topics from community connection, body positivity to black strength and power, Charlotte’s works respond to current political and social issues and are often used to represent Indigenous and LGBTQI+ movements, events, and design.

How do I find truly authentic artworks and items?

It is imperative that consumers conduct their own research into the products first, buy from Aboriginal-owned businesses and ask questions about the Artists and items. Commonly there are four elements used to identify an artwork as “authentic” Aboriginal:

“The ecosystem, the environment we live in is full of natural resources. Our art is our resource, it belongs to us, we use it in a ceremonial context; it is a resource for our survival. If control of that resource is taken away from us, we cannot meet our cultural obligations; we cannot use it for our families’ benefit. Exploiting our resource needs to be negotiated on our terms, we need to have control of how that’s done”
Dr Marika, Yolngu (Artist)

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