The three main activities we decided on while we stayed in Jabiru were visiting Injalak Arts, Ubirr and Cahill’s Crossing.
We had been told that you could see crocs catching barra at high tide at Cahill’s Crossing so headed up one evening. Unfortunately it was not a very high high tide but we still saw three salt water crocs in the water and as they were the first ones we had spotted in the wild, it was exciting.
The next day we crossed Cahill’s into Arnhem Land and Injalak Arts, located in Gunbalanya. It was then we spotted a croc warming up in the sun which was very impressive.
The drive to Gunbalanya is beautiful, through the lush greens of Arnhem Land. To access Injalak Arts you need to get a pass from the Northern Land Council which has an office in Jabiru. Gunbalanya is located near the Adjumarrllal Billabong and floodplains and Injalak hill. Tours of the rock art on the hill can be arranged. We decided not to do one today, something to add to ‘the next trip’.
Injalak Arts has over 300 members who create either on site, in their communities or on outstations and when visiting we were able to view men painting, women weaving and it was women’s day in the screen printing studio.
All the artists were very proud of their work and happy to talk about their technique or the stories behind their creations. The men shared how the fine brushes for the line work are made from reeds in the billabong, the layering techniques used and the stories behind each of their paintings. One elder was working on a very intricate bark painting using traditional techniques.
The women sat on the opposite side of the centre under the trees preparing pandanus and weaving. Some worked on splitting and preparing the pandanus, including grinding the whiter sections to form a paste for dying. Tins sat on the fire dying the prepared pandanus while other fibres hung drying trees. The women worked quietly amongst themselves and were happy to chat about their craft and the process. Some of them also hold free workshops in Kakadu but sadly we missed them although Izzy was super keen to give weaving a try.
The shop was filled with paintings, sculptures, woven items and fabric printed on site as well as a range of products made from the printed fabrics. This is a great place to purchase items as they are reasonably priced and in some cases you may be buying an item made by those demonstrating outside.
Injalak Arts has also recently opened a shop in Darwin called Provenance Arts. This space houses a shop, gallery and space for exhibitions, demonstrations films, workshops and more. It also specialises in indigenous cultural tourism and stocks items from over 30 community arts centres from WA, NT and Queensland as well as non-indigenous artworks. We popped in while we were in Darwin to support this new venture. It has a cleaner, crisper presentation than Injalak Arts with its white walls and spacious layout but still has a richness to it and on the day we visited their workshop space floor was being used by women weaving.
On the way back to Jabiru we stopped briefly to view the rock art and enjoy the view from Ubbir. It was lovely to look back over Ahrnem Land and reflect on the rich community and country we visited that day.