New portal opens gateway to ancient Western Australian culture

5 July 2019
The launch of a shared online portal depicting rarely seen Aboriginal artwork, stories and knowledge will next week bring people from a remote Western Australian community together with University of Sydney and Redfern communities.

Six Ngaanyatjarra community members from Warbuton will travel to Sydney for the launch of the Warburton Arts and Knowledge Portal (WAKP) on Monday. While in Sydney they will create an artwork for the University and take part in NAIDOC Week activities with the local Redfern community.

WAKP is an interactive portal which tells the story of the unique land, culture, art and language of the Ngaanyatjarra people. It includes stunning drone footage of Warburton’s wide and dramatic landscape, overlaid with images of artwork and stories told by local elders (who also feature in video footage) in the local language.

Designed and built through extensive community consultation over three years by Panos Couros, the Production Manager of the Warburton Arts and Knowledge Project, the portal has been devised as a resource for students and staff across the University. Available to all University staff and students, it is being trialled by postgraduate museums studies students. As a museums’ studies resource, the portal helps students consider how different audience segments engage with collections and issues around indigenising museum collections. Members of the Warburton community can also access the portal. 

“WAKP is an engaging and comprehensive example of a community-led online collection,” Mr Couros said.

Image of three Ngaanyatjarra women painting a huge, beautiful dot painting

Painting titled 'Ngayululatju Palyarnyu' (WAC 063 L) L-R: Olive Lawson, Betty West, Lalla West, Elizabeth West (photo taken by Gary Proctor) 

Warburton is home to the largest collection of Aboriginal art owned by Aboriginal people in the country. This astonishing body of work features extensively in the portal. It has been collected over 30 years, with the community acquiring all the significant works created there. It is rare to see Ngaanyatjarra art on the market.

The 10,000-year old Ngaanyatjarra culture is very much intact, in large part because the remote community has had contact with western culture for only around 70 years.

“The portal gives the university community immediate access to indigenous knowledges and insight into how those knowledges, which reveal so much about the land and its people, are known, understood and shared,” Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy and Services) Professor Lisa Jackson-Pulver said.

“For the people of Warburton this is a beautiful repository of its exquisite culture, which will ensure local knowledge is passed on to future generations.”

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