Guest lecture: “The Old Masters continuing to teach contemporary Australia” – A presentation about the Old Masters Exhibition from the National Museum of Australia

Guest Lecture, Ms Ruth Constantine; Australian Embassy

Location: HS 6 (Mensagebäude)

Date/time: March 24, 10:00-11:30




Aboriginal Art, in particular the so-called ‘traditional’ forms such as the “Old Masters”, has become immensely popular worldwide. For example, such works are highly sought after by Australian and international tourists and examples can be found in many homes, businesses and public venues. The designs are also used on clothing, furniture, stationary, and a range of other products. For the most part, however, while admired for its artistic and cultural authenticity – a characteristic that authenticates a tourist’s experiences – many of the acquirers are unaware of the Iconography, or religious and secular symbolism and conventions, behind such works.

Australia has many Aboriginal Cultures. There is not one pan-Australia Culture, although there are often strong similarities in the cultural beliefs and practices of neighbouring groups.

Fortunately, nowadays the artists share the stories with us, and we can identify what part of the painting refers to what aspect of the story. Nonetheless, the full meaning – and the ability to fully read the pictures in their entire cultural context – remains the preserve of the artists’ cultures themselves. Through looking at the symbols and structures of the works, we can rapidly identify what part of Australia, and what cultural groups, they come from.


About the speaker:

Ruth Constantine

Second Secretary, Australian Embassy and Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Vienna.

Ms Constantine is an Australian diplomat currently posted with bilateral and multilateral accreditations in Vienna, Austria with prior service in Hanoi, Vietnam. Her experience in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade includes roles in the US and Indo-Pacific Strategy Division, the India Economic Strategy Taskforce and the National Security Strategy Branch in International Security Division. Prior to joining DFAT, Ms Constantine worked as an ethnographic and political consultant for a Yangon-based non-government organisation and undertook postgraduate research on migration and trafficking in Myanmar and Thailand. Ms Constantine holds a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours and the University Medal from the University of Queensland.



Alexander Onysko, Department of English