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Aboriginal Minimalism

What is minimalism
nounminimalism
A deliberate lack of decoration or adornment in style or design.
As the global trend of minimalism continues to gain popularity, the concise definition stated above has become a style, brand and even a company. 
Minimalism as a global trend started in the late 1950's in the art world of New York, America. When artists started to resent classical forms of art and decided to present simpler designs. This led into other areas such as fashion, interior designs and lifestyle adopting the minimal aesthetic. 
However, minimalism has been present in Cultures all over the world for thousands of years and is deeply embedded in those cultures today. 
What is modern minimalism 
In a world fuelled by excess and consumerism, modern minimalism is driven by Individuals who consciously live, consume and curate their lives. 
It is closely aligned with the minimalism definition, but also incorporates lifestyle. 
Individuals now label themselves as 'being minimalist' and in doing so;
  • Decorate their homes in a minimalist way. 
    Having only the essential items and not consuming or decorating in excess. 
    Companies like Ikea are built on Scandinavian culture, that celebrate simple design. 
  • They style their wardrobe to be minimal. 
    Capsule wardrobes, project 333 and minimal wardrobes are all concepts developed around styling the self in a simple and minimal way. 
  • Live a minimal life. 
    The modern minimalist may own less things, but in owning less, they make time for doing more. Making more time to engage in activities they enjoy, spending time with the people they love and giving more. 
  • Consume consciously 
    In todays society, it is easier than ever to purchase whatever we want or need with the click of a few buttons. 
    so the modern minimalist will consume consciously by shopping less and with clearer intentions. 
  • Subsequently become environmentally conscious 
    Many modern minimalists subsequently become environmentally conscious or aware of their impacts as a result of consuming less. Living sustainably comes naturally to those who only consume what they need.  

 

Aboriginal Minimalism 

When we hear stories from our old people about our culture and when we are taught on country, there is always something said that makes me think Aboriginal people were the first minimalists. 
"We never take more than we need"
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in complete harmony with the Earth and never need anything in excess. Our ancestors lived on this land for thousands of years in a symbiotic relationship with Mother Earth. 
People, animals, earth, water, air, fire and cosmos all lived harmoniously and in balance. 
Some qualities of traditional Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander life and culture are explored below in regards to Aboriginal Minimalism;
  • Clothing 
    Clothing of our ancestors was simple and made with animal or plant fibres and would differ depending on the location. All clothing was made from Earth materials and would have been made and repaired as needed. 
  • Housing 
    There are over 500 different nations across Australia and the climate and terrain varies dramatically. Different nations have their own ways of building shelters. However, as all materials came from natural resources, they had simple and effective features for keeping warm, protecting the community from harsh weather and animals. 
  • Tools
    Tools for hunting made from trees, rocks and plant fibres where made for each individual. 
    Women and men had different tools and assisted the community to maintain a consistent food supply. 
  • Food 
    All food was gathered or hunted on the land, water and sky. 
    Each nation across Australia has a seasonal calendar and specific food types are harvested in moderation only when the season permits.
  • Art 
    When thinking about modern Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander art, the last thing you may think of is minimalism. 
    However traditionally, art was used as a tool to share lore, stories and messages. Pigment and ochre from the earth are transcribed in rock formations and also burnt onto animal skins. 
    Simple designs and symbols can be found on artefacts that are tens of thousands of years old. 
    These simple designs often holding a deeper meaning and story. 
Closing
Were Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people the first minimalists? 
When I first set out to answer this question, I wondered if perhaps like most things in modern western culture, it was back to front and upside down. 
Modern minimalism strive to live a life of consuming less and living more. By doing so many modern minimalists will find themselves being more Earth conscious. 
Aboriginal people live a life of complete harmony with the Earth and in doing so only consume consciously. 
Perhaps, the minimalist trend needs to adopt the qualities of Aboriginal culture and first live in harmony with earth and as a result consume less. 
Perhaps a new definition is created;
noun: Aboriginal minimalism
A deliberate life lived in harmony with Mother Earth resulting in conscious decoration or adornment in style or design.