Ngukurr Art Centre sits a stone’s throw from the banks of the Roper River in Ngukurr, South East Arnhem Land. The Art Centre, like the town of Ngukurr, is unique – bringing together people of many different clans and language groups including Ngalakgan, Alawa, Mangarrayi, Ngandi, Marra, Warndarrang, Nunggubuyu, Ritharrngu-Wägilak and Rembarrnga. Together these clans are known as Yugul Mangi.
History reflected in art
Exploring new styles and techniques and then recontextualising them to become something wholly unique to each artist’s country and culture is a defining quality of the work being created here.
From the early 1900s, the Roper River peoples fled to the mission in Ngukurr, seeking refuge from the violence of pastoralists. This meant that people of different clans and languages were suddenly living in the same community and under the same roof.
This history is reflected in the subject matters and diversity of styles at Ngukurr Arts. There has never been one distinct school or style here but what is typical of the work is boldness – the legacy of artists who have gone before, such as Ginger Riley, Gertie Huddlestone, Sambo Barra Barra and Maureen Thomson. These artists were renowned for their adventurous styles and bold colours in interpreting traditional stories and landscapes. Many of their family members are working at the Art Centre today.