Art and an Aboriginal System of Knowledge
The rich symbolism of Yolngu art links the Yolngu directly with the "Dreaming," the time of world-creation that continues as the spiritual dimension of the present. Morphy shows how a complex dialectic of "inside" and "outside" interpretations of painting structures the system of knowledge in Yolngu society, and how European interest in this art has caused certain changes in the conditions of its production. The "inside" significance of the art, however, has not changed; it retains its dual ability to represent and to constitute relationships between things.
Ancestral Connections is a major contribution to the anthropology of art. A subtle commentary on the colonial encounter in northern Australia, the book demonstrates how the Yolngu have used their art—against all odds—as an instrument of cultural survival and as a component of the economic and political transformation of their society.