What do hands represent in Aboriginal art?

You may wonder what hands represent in Aboriginal art, especially as you’ll find them to be a common component in most Aboriginal artworks.

Let’s start with a handy video (sorry for the pun):

Source: Rural Medical Education Australia – Colin Jones, Lecturer in Aboriginal History

Hands hold significant symbolism in Aboriginal art and culture, and may represent one or more of the following aspects and concepts:

Related: What do dots represent in Aboriginal art?


In Aboriginal culture hands often symbolise the connection between individuals, communities, and ancestral spirits.

Hands represent the bond between people and their cultural heritage, emphasising unity, co-operation, and the importance of community.

A hand symbol in a rock painting is a symbol of belonging within that place.


Hands can represent the act of creation and artistic expression.

Aboriginal artists may use their hands to apply paint, create handprints, or depict hand gestures which signify the act of bringing art and stories to life.

Spiritual Presence

Hands can depict the presence of ancestral spirits or Dreamtime beings.

They serve as a visual representation of spiritual energy and the guidance of ancestors.

Ceremonial Significance

Hands play a crucial role in Aboriginal ceremonies and rituals.

They are used in dances, gestures, and rituals, to invoke spiritual powers, connect with ancestral beings, and communicate messages.

Healing and Protection

In some Aboriginal cultures, hand motifs are associated with the practice of healing, and also protection rituals. Hands may represent the healing touch, the transfer of spiritual energy, or the warding off of negative influences.

Personal Identity

Handprints can serve as a form of personal identification, particularly in rock art. You may consider this similar to the tag used by a graffiti artist, or a signature scribed on a painting.

Our hands are all different, and can act as a unique mark or signature. In Aboriginal art this can indicate an individual’s presence or participation in cultural activities.

Keep in mind the specific meanings and significance of hands can vary among different Aboriginal cultures and artists.

The interpretation of hand motifs often depends on the cultural context, Dreamtime stories, and personal symbolism associated with the artwork.

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