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Wangkatjungka art and communityWangkatjungka Community


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 Paintings pages.


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