On arrival at Injalak Art Centre, you’re presented with a festival of colours; there are weavings, paintings and screen prints in pinks, purples, oranges, blues and greens, as well as the ochres, yellows, and reds that typify the traditional Aboriginal art aesthetic. The textures delight the senses, from the huskiness of pandanus weavings, to the luxurious roughness of printed silk, and the bark canvases made smooth with months of preparation for painting. But what makes Injalak so different to any art centre you’ve ever visited is the opportunity to interact with artists as they recreate the stories of their ancestors through their art. Read on to find out why a visit to Injalak Art Centre is such a distinct experience.
Where is Injalak Art Centre? Injalak is located just past Kakadu National Park in western Arnhem Land, in the town of Gunbalanya - you can see it on a map here. Please note a permit is required to enter Arnhem Land and can be obtained from the NLC.
1. You’re supporting a community
Some 200 artists, including painters, weavers and screen printers, make up Injalak’s membership. Officially opened in 1989, Injalak Art Centre has come a long way from the small tin shed it originally was; today the centre is a thriving Aboriginal-owned social enterprise that supports the Kunwinjku, Mengerrdji and Erre clans to celebrate, sustain and share their culture through art, at the same time as supporting the local people to earn a livelihood.
2. You’re helping to keep an ancient culture alive
Where European cultures use literature to keep historical records, art is used by Aboriginal people to pass on information about spirituality, land use, food sources, governance, historical events and kinship systems to future generations; concepts that are the cornerstones of Aboriginal life. When you buy art from Injalak, you don’t only buy authentic art, you help modern Aboriginal people keep their ancient traditions alive.
3. You get to interact directly with the artists
You need to take your time when you make a visit to Injalak Art Centre. Painters, weavers and screen printers sit on the verandas that flank the art centre, creating their works in the open air, yarning and laughing among themselves and with their visitors. It’s humbling to know when you’re speaking to an Injalak artist, you’re talking to a direct descendant of some of Australia’s most ancient peoples.
4. You’re in the presence of ancestors
The art centre is nestled below Injalak Hill, one of the world’s most important rock art sites. Venture North is one of only a few operators that have been granted permission by traditional owners to coordinate rock art tours to visit this site. Accompanied by a local Aboriginal guide you’ll see layered rock art created over 8000 years, telling stories of Yingana or Warramurruggunddji (the Creation Mother), a namarnde (evil) spirit, as well as insights into the lives of the ancestors of the local people who share their art at the centre today.
Check out our five-day tour of Kakadu, Arnhem Land and Cobourg Peninsula, which includes a stop at Injalak Art Centre and a rock art tour of Injalak Hill.