"Ritual Abstractions: Australian Aboriginal Western Desert" paintings and Papua New Guinea masks will be discussed at a lecture given by Annie MacDougall, the curator and owner of the collection, at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, in the Adrian Lamb Room at the New Canaan Library.

The program is presented in partnership with Staying Put in New Canaan.

MacDougall became enthralled with Australian Aboriginal paintings and New Guinea wood carvings while traveling and living extensively in both countries. Arriving in Australia's outback in 1988, she was immediately struck by the strength of the Aboriginal's creation myths, known as the Dreamtime or Tjukurrpa. These powerful myths, passed down from generation to generation, give color and substance to their abstract canvases and in turn influence all aspects of Aboriginal life. The materials used to paint are modern, acrylic on canvas, but the content is traditional, mythical and ritualistic.

Just more than 100 miles north of Australia lies New Guinea, one of the most culturally and artistic diverse regions of the world. Just as Aboriginal ground paintings are an integral part of their culture, New Guinean wood sculptures also have the power to affect its people both spiritually and socially. Through carvings, important stages of life are marked, kinship relationships reinforced and contact with good and bad spirits maintained.

Traditionally, most tribal art is ceremonial in nature, which is a different function from that of European or Western art. Images were representatives, at times even embodiments of the vital forces believed to exist in all living mater. Their true context was in motion, through song, dance and painting or carving. It was at this point in time with all the creative forces at work that information was imparted or spirits activated. Incorporating this understanding when viewing this artwork provides a glimpse into some of mankind's earliest philosophies and religions.

To register or for information, visit newcanaanlibrary.org or call 203-594-5003.

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