We are incredibly lucky here in Australia to have access to some of the most awe-inspiring pieces of art in the world by First Nations artists. Many of these works are produced at Remote Indigenous Art Centres in communities located across the nation. These centres are the lifeblood of remote communities, providing spaces for conversation, sharing of cultural knowledge, education and employment.
There are over 90 Indigenous art centres in Australia. As such, it can be quite overwhelming knowing where to start if you’re looking to purchase Indigenous art and support artists. To help out, we’ve put together a list of 5 art centres from different parts of Australia that operate ethically and feature a whole range of artistic styles. Before looking to purchase Indigenous art, it's important to note that the First Nations art centres and artists are not one big homogenous group, each have their own styles, stories, methods and materials that relate to their country and culture. The art centres included in this article represent some of this incredible diversity.
Iwantja Arts is an Indigenous owned and governed art centre located in the Indulkana Community on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia. The centre was established in the early 1980s by local artists and directors Alec Baker and Sadie Singer. Today, Iwantja Arts has 40+ members and provides artists with access to artistic and professional development (Iwantja Arts, 2021).
Iwantja Arts has a history of printmaking, with many of the original limited edition prints now being held in collections at the South Australia Museum and National Gallery of Australia. Today, artists create both prints and paintings that feature a unique and playful style that incorporates a colour palette of reds, oranges, pinks and purples (APY Collective, 2021).
Learn more about Iwantja Artists and view some of their incredible artworks here.
‘Kalaya Tjina’ by Alec Baker. Courtesy of Japingka Aboriginal Art, 2013.
Tiger Yaltangki with his self portrait which was a finalist for the 2020 Archibald prize. Courtesy of Apy Art Centre Collective, 2020.
‘Iwantja Springs’ by Judith Walkabout. Courtesy of Shorts Gallery, 2021.
Marrawuddi Arts and Culture
Marrawuddi Arts and Culture is located in the small town of Jabiru in the heart of the world heritage listed Kakadu National Park. They work with over 400 artists from both the Kakadu and West Arnhem land regions, providing a community hub and working space for artists. The Marrawuddi Arts space also includes a gallery space and cafe for visitors. Jabiru was recently handed back to the Mirarr Traditional Owners, and Marrawuddi was the first business to secure a lease under the post-mining plans for Jabiru (The Design Files, 2021).
Artists at Marrawuddi use traditional methods to weave and paint. Using manyilk (sedge grass) to weave, and a painting style called rarrk, more commonly known as cross hatching. Contemporary practices such as screen printing and acrylic painting are also practiced here. The women of Kakadu and West Arnhem are renowned for their incredible pandanus fibre art (Marrawuddi Arts and Culture, 2021).
You can check out their beautiful diverse array of artworks here.
‘Mimi’s Hunting’ by Abel Naborlhborlh. Courtesy of Marruwuddi, 2021.
‘Marebu & Bim’ by Robyn Nabegeyo. Courtesy of Marrawuddi Arts and Culture, 2021.
Numbulwar Numburindi Arts
Numbulwar Numburindi Arts (NNA) was established in 2019. The art centre is located on the Rose River in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Northern Territory, the traditional lands of the Nunggayinbala clan. NNA is 100 percent owned and operated by the community, who aim to practice and keep traditional culture alive (NNA, 2021).
NNA artists are renowned for their bright, bold woven crafts. They use a diverse range of materials, including traditional naturally-dyed pandanus, bright ghost nets and abandoned fishing line retrieved from Numbulwar’s shoreline. With these unique materials, they create Wulbung (baskets) and Yir (dillybags) which are both beautiful works of art and highly practical items that can be used in everyday life (NNA, 2021).
Learn more about Numbulwar Numburindi Arts and view their gorgeous pieces here.
Shopping bags. Photographed by Nick DeLorenzo, courtesy of Koskela, 2021.
Woven ‘wulbung.’ Courtesy of NNA, 2021.
Woven ‘wulbung.’ Courtesy of NNA, 2021.
Martumili Artists is located in the town of Newman, Western Australia. The collective was established by the Martu people who live in the surrounding communities of Parnpajinya (Newman), Jigalong, Parnngurr, Punmu, Kunawarritji, Irrungadji and Warralong. The artists draw strongly upon traditional cultural knowledge to create their artworks. They are traditional custodians of vast stretches of the Great Sandy, Little Sandy and Gibson Deserts. Many of the Martu people maintained a completely independent, nomadic lifestyle until the late 1950s when they had to move into settlements due to a long and severe drought (Martumili Artists, 2021).
The Martu people's paintings are bright and bold, depicting traditional ways of life, bush tucker and Jukurrpa (Dreaming stories). Young artists will typically begin painting with their parents, grandparents and extended family. This creates an inclusive learning environment where young people learn about painting techniques as well as their family history and culture. Martumili Artists are also renowned for their huge collaborative artworks that up to 10 artists will work on together (Martumili Artists, 2021).
Check out some of Martumili Artists gorgeous works here.
Martu people painting together. Courtesy of Social Ventures Australia, 2018.
‘Our Country’ by Kumpaya Girgirba, Noelene Girgirba, Thelma Judson, Noreena Kadibil, Anya Judith Samson, Kathleen Sorensen, Karnu Nancy Taylor, Natasha Williams, Sonya Williams and Marjorie Yates. Courtesy of MCA, 2011.
Ikuntji Artists was founded in 1992 and was the first art centre established by women as a part of the Western Desert Art Movement. The centre is based in the community of Haasts Bluff (Ikuntji) in the Northern Territory. They are a member-based, non-for-profit run by and for local artists (Ikuntji Artists, 2021).
The artists draw inspiration from their personal Ngurra (country) and Tjukurrpa (Dreaming). They depict their Dreaming Stories using traditional symbols, icons and motifs in both highly abstract styles and naive artists styles. Artists create gorgeous patterns, many of which form the basis of their beautiful textiles. Ikuntji Artists textiles are featured in a number of clothing brand collections and their artworks are represented in major collections across the globe (Ikuntji Artists, 2021).
Learn more and view some of their gorgeous paintings and textiles here.
Ikuntji Artists textiles. Courtesy of Ikuntji Artists, 2021.
‘Warumpi Hill At Papunya’ by Garrard Anderson. Courtesy of Ikuntji Artists, 2021.
‘Hair String’ by Eunice Jack. Courtesy of Cooee Art, 2004.
So, we can see Indigenous art centres are places full of unique histories and a diverse mix of contemporary and traditional artistic influences and culture. Through painting, First Nations artists are able to reinforce the strength of their country and culture, whilst supporting their communities and livelihoods. If you are ever travelling, consider checking out some Indigenous art centres to see the beautiful artworks, woven items and prints in person! Another one of these remote art centres is in Fitzroy Crossing.