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Visual arts and other modes and media of communication are vital to Indigenous People, yet multimodal forms of representation, such as those prioritised in the arts, are often poorly understood and excluded from Indigenous education. This article describes cross-cultural, participatory community research enacted with an Indigenous school in Australia. Indigenous elementary students were taught by Indigenous community leaders to engage in visual arts through paintings and other forms of artistic representation (e.g. dances, rap video). These artistic expressions were coherent with Indigenous ways of learning and communicating. The multidimensionality of Indigenous students’ paintings was analysed, and the significance explained in relation to the language of transgenerational Indigenous Lore. The results demonstrate how Indigenous visual arts enabled powerful representations of transgenerational knowledge and understandings. The findings also provide generative illustrations of a culturally informed and responsive multimodal literacy pedagogy, highlighting the need to respect the multimodal dimensions of representation that have cultural meanings for Indigenous identity and education practices. The article challenges Western, privileged forms of literacy, while highlighting the need to respect visual arts as language in the English curriculum for equitable and culturally responsive education for Indigenous students.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Journal Article

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