History in Lajamanu, Northern Territory

Warnayaka Art and the Warlpiri People Elders

In the old days the most important Warlpiri artwork was on wood and sand. Later it was put onto the body. Now we use acrylic paint on canvas, and digital art is emerging as the new medium of the younger generation. The medium doesn’t matter, it’s more important that people learn their culture. The Warlpiri, of Warnayaka Art, live in Lajamanu in the Northern Territory of Australia.

This is the story for the Warlpiri nation, two: Ngalia and Warnayaka. One from the south-west and one from the north-east. The two now live in Lajamanu. Two also live in Nyirripi. Two live in Lajamanu, two live in Nyirripi, some in Willowra - the right place, the country of our ancestors - and in Mt Theo. Two became one in Lajamanu, the families are joined up now. The same as when they lived in the bush.

This art centre is for the young people to learn their culture and law. It is important for our youth to learn the knowledge held by the Ngalia and Warnayaka peoples who are now living as one in Lajamanu. The art centre is for the survival of culture from the grandfathers’ and grandmothers’ country. The children are getting lost and there are not many old men left, some women but few men.

Some of our important Dreaming sites are hundreds of kilometres from Lajamanu. The grandchildren and great grandchildren who live in Lajamanu need to know their Jukurrpa, otherwise they will lose their inheritance to this really important country. They need to know the Warlpiri Ngalia Laws so they can at anytime go onto their great grandfather’s and ancestors’ land, especially where these important dreaming sites are, like at Mina Mina and Kana-kurlangu. This is why the art centre is so important to the people of Lajamanu. At any time children can see the works of the elders telling them the Kurdiji, the Law, and all that is tied into the Jukurrpa paintings.