Identifying Conventions and Themes in Macassan Contact Art

Author: David Zuccolin

Zuccolin, David, 2024 Identifying Conventions and Themes in Macassan Contact Art, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This thesis aims at providing further insight to the analysis of Macassan prau motifs from the early Australian contact period. By using methods from historical visual art periods can archaeologists understand more about their interpretations of the past. In seeking new lines of archaeological enquiry, it may be possible to develop art conventions that allows maritime rock to be revised.

This thesis provides two surveys lines that analyses art conventions in Indigenous watercraft rock art and modern visual art. Survey one provides a backdrop in analysis of Macassan prau motifs and the limitations that create issues in prau rock art interpretation. This survey also highlights the low-level prau rock art research that has be undertaken over the years. A point of difference is survey two which provides a new level of capturing subject knowledge and the ability to identify art conventions, by undertaking a survey with the general public and allowing participants draw a Macassan prau. Survey two focuses on persons that have a range of skills, knowledge and life experiences to do with drawing, experience with watercraft and the ocean.

The study reveals the challenges of analysing conventions in Indigenous motifs and visual art. While introducing new themes of connections to sailing and the sea it could provide a more thorough interpretation for research in Indigenous rock art analysis. The thesis provides a new approach in experimental archaeology of not just analysing Indigenous motifs from the contact era, but a modern interpretation that challenges the past.

Keywords: art conventions, contact art themes, Macassan contact art, Macassan praus

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2024
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Dr Daryl Wesley