Rock Art, Injalak Hill, Gunbalanya

Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for at least 60,000 years. For the vast majority of this time there was no written language, so art was a vital form of communication. 

Aboriginal culture is based on strong ties to the country, and paintings recorded the seasons, animals and spirits that reside in the land. Importantly, not ownership of land but custodianship. Body painting, sand painting and the art of rituals and ceremonies were all central to Aboriginal life, but it’s the rock art that has endured and is best known.

For non-Aboriginal people it is easy to view rock art as individual paintings - viewing one, then walking on to the next, as in a western art gallery. But early Aboriginal art was not made to be viewed that way. The works form an interconnected grid of sites, all pieces of an overall story of greater significance.

A local rock art site might tell a particular creation story which is connected to another rock art site some distance away. Some sites are far apart, yet deeply connected through the Dreaming stories they tell.

The diversity and richness of early Aboriginal art is distinct to each language group and region.