Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Tree of Life

I'm working on a review of a book on Aboriginal church art, and am trying to get images from the book to include in the review.  In my search I came across this image, which can be found here (scroll to the bottom of the page).  I think it's a great painting with some wonderful Gospel symbolism.  Here's the description:

This painting in the Cathedral is by Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Bauman.  She was asked to paint a picture to go with her talk called 'Dadirri', meaning silence or stillness.  It was the time when the saltwater crocodiles lay their eggs in the mounds they have prepared along the river banks or in the swamps amongst the cane grass.
The painting is in three parts.  The upper part depicts nature, which is our calendar.  It tells us when to hunt for fruits, yams, animals, reptiles, fish or birds.  By looking at certain flowers that are blossoming, or which way the wind is blowing, we know what to look for and gather.
The bottom of the painting is ourselves.  The circles and lines mean that we have been washed with Jesus' blood coming from the paperbark chalice.  The yam under the cross is Jesus' body.  The cross means that Jesus died for our sins and rose to life again.  At the top of the cross there are flames coming from fire sticks.  Jesus is the light of the world.
The tree in the middle represents the Aboriginal people.  Pope John Paul II said to them:  'You are like a tree standing in the middle of a bushfire sweeping through the timber.  The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred and burned, but inside the tree the sap is still flowing and under the ground the roots are still strong.'  When the wet season sets in and the rain comes, the tree grows and blossoms.  The storm winds come too.  The white lines on each side of the tree are the water and wind representing the Holy Spirit.


  1. Hi Scott,
    Love the mention of Australian Aboriginal art!
    Did I tell you I was influenced by that in my art?
    See here: http://kirstenborror.blogspot.com/2010/11/inside-out-nature-of-painting.html

  2. It's definitely a fascinating art form! Thanks for the link.