The Kimberley is a land of beauty. It’s home to stunning waterfalls, endless adventure and amazing wildlife, but it also has a deep history connected to our aboriginal ancestors. For thousands and thousands of years the Kimberley has been home to aboriginal clans, and many still call it home today. These ancient clans have left their mark on the land through their use of rock art.
Aboriginal rock art is a term used to describe images carved, drawn or painted onto rocks by aboriginal groups many, many years ago using materials such as ochre and clay. It can be found all over Australia but some of the oldest rock art is believed to exist in the Kimberley. It dates back to 20, 000 years ago when the first Australians occupied the land and used the method of rock art to leave messages for one another and to tell traditional dreaming stories.
Wandjina rock art in the Kimberley
It’s thought that as little as 1-2% of Kimberley rock art has been recorded which means there is much more to be discovered. A group of international experts have teamed up in western Australia to embark on a 5-year project to uncover more of the Kimberley’s lost art. They are trekking long distances and using boats as well as helicopters to locate some of the most remotely positioned work. They are also working with local rangers who are keen to record their ancestor’s history. The team works together to find areas where Aboriginal families may have spent time gathering for ceremonies, cooking and storytelling.
It’s hoped that the work they carry out over the next few years as part of the Kimberley Visions project will shed light on the region’s distinctive art styles, including the Gwion figures and Wandjina spirit figures. The first findings from this initial work is due to be published in 2017.
If you travel through the Kimberley today both Gwion and Wandjina rock art can be found. Manning Gorge and Galvans Gorge offer plenty of adventure as well as the opportunity to observe the ancient works of Australia’s first inhabitants.