We carry a large number of indigenous works, most of them painted from artists at the Warlukurlangu Community, with whom we have been working for many years. Founded in 1985, Warlukurlangu Artists is one of the longest running and most successful Aboriginal-owned art centres in Central Australia. From the very beginning the leaders of the art centre were motivated by cultural preservation, most of them were also leaders of the men’s and women’s ceremonies (at the time when there was still a very active ceremonial life in Yuendumu). From it's inception Warlukurlangu’s art became recognized for its bold use of colour through an unrestricted palette and this was integral to the distinctive style that emerged. Another early distinctive feature was the use of very traditional iconography. The artists painted Jukurrpa (dreaming story), ensuring appropriate Warlpiri relationships of kirda (owners) and kurdugurlu (guardians) were followed and the images reflected the social and cultural obligations present in ceremonies and day-to-day life in the community. The kurawarri, the iconographic elements of a painting that held the story, were painted first and scrutinized by others for their adherence to Jukurrpa. The dotting that filled the canvases was less important, and many artists developed varying styles of application and experimented with different colours while maintaining a consistency in their presentation of kuruwarri.
Nowadays, the paintings tell the story of the artists connection to their country, the features of the landscape, the plants and animals that are found there and the creation myth that occurred in the Dreamtime. These stories are still very relevant to the artists today. Artists have their own particular styles or palettes, and constantly experiment and vary their paintings, so the works are constantly evolving. Any person in the two communities of Yuendumu and Nyirripi can engage with the activities of the art centre. Anyone who does engage is referred to as an ‘artist’ whether they have just started painting or have been painting for many years.Artists actively participate in the ongoing development of the organisation. The management of the art centre works hard to create a space where the artists feel safe, comfortable and happy to come together to paint and share their knowledge. There are over 600 artists currently participating. Some come every day and some may do only one or two paintings a year.People also come from other nearby outlying communities, Yuelumu, Laramba, Willowra and Alice Springs to sell craft items through the centre. If people from any of these communities are in Yuendumu visiting family they are also welcome to participate in the art centre.
It is not uncommon to find several generations of one family at the art centre at any one time, grandparents painting with their grandchildren. In this way the younger generations are being instructed in the stories and designs of their traditional culture. Frequently the older artists can be heard singing the songs associated with the story they are painting. It is often said that by the very act of painting traditional Indigenous culture is being reinvigorated and kept alive.