Wangkatjungka, is a remote community situated 100km south-east
of Fitzroy Crossing in far north Western Australia. It is located
on an excision of Christmas Creek Station and is a settlement
of predominately Wangkatjunka speaking people. For a sketch
map of the region, click
here (opens a new browser window).
Prior to 1971 and the introduction of equal wages, the people
used to work on nearby cattle stations. The community moved
to its current location when dwellings, a shop and a clinic
were constructed in the late 1970s.
In 1994 the Karrayili Adult Education Centre was established
at Wangkatjunka. A large group of adults attended the centre
between 1994-1998 to study numeracy and literacy. Their education
assisted in their daily life and helped to develop self esteem
and confidence to become involved in management of the community.
Adults also gained an understanding of what their children and
grand children were learning at school and allowed greater interaction
with the teachers and school activities.
The Centre provided community members with art materials and
some guidance with their use. A number of senior people became
very interested in painting as a method of permanently recording
their stories and culture. Recounting and recording the stories
and country depicted in these paintings provides an invaluable
record of Wangkatjunka language, culture and mythology. This
knowledge can be used and valued by the whole community. Anthropologists,
linguists and the wider Australian community can also benefit
from this unique cultural record. Money earned from painting
provides the artists with an independent income.
Another benefit was the discovery not only of ancient stories
and Dreamings which would have been lost, but also a considerable
depth of raw talent within the community and amongst the older
people, a painting style and stories which have never been recorded
before. Senior Wangkatjunka people, including these artists,
have maintained their language and culture despite the hardships
they have endured. They continue to practice important ceremonial
cycles, often making long trips to other communities for such
occasions. Their art recalls and renews the centrality of country
and culture, the living experience, the vivid memory.
The Karrayili teacher at Wangkatjunka, Gordon Bleakley, encouraged
the artists and documented their artwork. A major collaborative
work painted in 1998 by the artists was exhibited in the 2001
National Aboriginal Art Award and purchased by the National
Gallery of Victoria.
After Karrayili closed its Wangkatjunka Annex in 1998, artistic
activity lapsed as the artists had difficulty getting art materials
and arranging promotion of their work. In 2001 a new burst of
creative activity commenced, with an experienced curator, Susan
Cochrane, able to assist the artists with documenting and organising
exhibitions of their work. In 2001-2002 Wangkatjunka artists
exhibited in Brisbane, Paris, Canberra and Broome.
In 2002, the community approached Japingka Gallery from Perth
to help in promoting their art and culture to a wider audience.
Japingka Gallery held a workshop in the community under the
guidance of David Wroth who has had close working relationships
with artists such as Jimmy Pike and Lorna Napurrula Fencer.
The workshop was an immediate success with the artists flourishing
and going to a new level in their painting. We are witnessing
the exciting birth of a new painting school along with the important
recording of ancient Dreamtime stories and culture.
To see art works by Wangkatjungka artists, see our Wangkatjungka