Cape York Peninsula is a marvellous region
with a rich range of natural and cultural values. It is one
of the largest relatively undisturbed areas remaining on earth.
It contains a mosaic of rainforests, woodlands, wild rivers,
heathlands, forests and wetlands. Its coastal and marine environments
remain healthy and unpolluted. The Cape has been home to Aboriginal
peoples for millennia, back to a time when land bridges connected
Australia and New Guinea. For images and more information see
Cape York Peninsula
- Wild Country.
Cape York Peninsula has a number of communities
active in producing art works. The best known of these are the
Lockhart River "Art Gang",
but there are other communities on the Cape producing excellent
art work such as Aurukun, Hope Vale
In 2003 the Queensland Art Gallery held a landmark
exhibition "Story Place" which demonstrated the breadth
of work being produced on Cape York (the catalogue is available
through our online
shop). While the Aboriginal artists of Cape York have not
been as well organised as in the centre, Top End or the Kimberley,
this situation is starting to change.
Lockhart River became recognized in the late 1990s as an exciting
new art centre where a group of young, contemporary artists
developed in the community. The Art Gang, as they
are known locally and now more widely, emerged in 1995. The
best known of the Lockhart River artists include Rosella Namok,
Samantha Hobson, Fiona Omeenyo, Silas Hobson and Adrian King.
For details, see our page on Lockhart
Aurukun is situated on the western side of Cape York Peninsula.
It is one of the larger communities on the Cape with approximately
1200 people. It was established as as a Presbyterian mission
in 1904. The various nations of the western Cape, based around
Aurukun, are collectively referred to as the Wik and Kugu peoples.
There are five different clans groups within this area.
Aurukun has the oldest established art centre on Cape York
Peninsula. There has been an art centre at Aurukun for over
fifty years and it provides artistic and commercial support
for local artists. The Wik and Kugu Arts and Crafts Centre focuses
on the production of high quality indigenous sculpture and fibre
art as well as being an important cultural centre.
Artists of the Aurukun region are famous for their sculptures.
Traditionally the works were carved in soft timber for use in
ceremonies. When the ceremonies were finished the objects were
discarded and left to break down in the bush. These sculptures
are now taking more lasting form as art objects.
Sculptures from Aurukun are mainly based on totemic animal
or plant images. Each artist has one or sometimes two totems
that relate to them, their family and their language group and
identify them within a social structure. It is only in the last
10 years that the artists of Aurukun have pursued a commercial
market for their work.
Craig Koomeeta is one of the best known Aurukun sculptors.
He is a member of the Wik-Alkan language group and lives in
Aurukun. In 2001, as the first Aurukun artist to enter the Telstra
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award, he
received the Wandjuk Marika Memorial Three-Dimensional Award
for his Saltwater crocodile sculpture. His work has been included
in major exhibitions.
Kowanyama is located in western Cape York Peninsula on the
Mitchell River which provides the focus for cultural and economic
activity, traditional story places and local fishing sites.
Kowanyama has a population of around 900.