Balgo Hills (Wirrimanu) is one of the most important Aboriginal
art centres in Australia. The community is located on the northern
edge of the Tanami and Great Sandy Deserts and is one of the
most isolated of Australia's desert settlements.
Warlayirti Artists, the art centre cooperative in the community,
promotes the rich and evolving work of the artists. Balgo artists
are renowned for the brilliance of the colour and strong forms
in their most frequently used medium of acrylic paint on canvas.
The community of around 500 people includes senior established
artists such as Eubena (Yupinya) Nampitjin, Elizabeth Nyumi,
Boxer Milner, Sam Tjampitjin, Helicopter Tjungarrayi and Tjumpo
Tjapanangka as well as younger emerging artists such as Pauline
paintings and Balgo
glass are sought after by collectors and the artists have
been included in the lists of "Australia's most collectable
artists" published by the Australian Art Collector magazine.
Our Web site works closely with the Balgo Art Centre
(Warlayirti Artists) to provide information about the art, artists
and community, as well as to offer good quality paintings and prints.
On this and linked pages, you can find information about
Balgo Hills (Wirrimanu) Community
Balgo Hills (Wirrimanu) Aboriginal community is located on the boundary
between the Great Sandy Desert and the Tanami Desert of central
and Western Australia. It is about 280 kilometres south-southeast
of Halls Creek along the Tanami Track, and 830 kilometres north-west
of Alice Springs. For a sketch map of the region, click
here (opens a new browser window). The present settlement
at Balgo Hills began in 1964-65 as a Catholic Mission Station
for the nomadic people, mainly Kukatja speakers, from the remote
areas south and south-east of Sturt Creek.
| The previous venture at "old" Balgo Hills,
was begun in the 1940s twenty kilometres west of the present site.
However, it had to be abandoned after twenty years because of
the lack of reliable water.
Buildings at Old Balgo in the
In the late 1970s, the local people took over the running of the
Balgo Hills Mission from the Catholic Church. Its name was later
being changed to Wirrimanu Aboriginal Community, reflecting
the importance of the Kingfisher Dreaming to the local people
- but it is commonly still referred to as Balgo.
Most of the Balgo community speaks Kukatja, which
is one of the Western Desert languages. It is the main means of everyday
communication. Some of the many languages spoken at Wirrimanu are:
Kukatja, Walmajarri, Jaru, Pintupi, Warlpiri and Kriol. Most of the
adults are trilingual. General community meetings are conducted in
The population of Wirrimanu has fluctuated over the years. Family,
cultural and social responsibilities and obligations mean that people
often have to travel, resulting in a very mobile community. The current
population is between 350 and 400, rising to as many as 500 according
to season or major community events.
Access to the community is normally by road along the Tanami Track,
when accessible (summer flooding of Sturt Creek is not uncommon),
or by Charter plane. Entry conditions and permits apply.