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Opening night of Desert Mob 2015 exhibition | Courtesy Araluen Arts Centre © Lisa Hatzimihail
Opening night of Desert Mob 2015 exhibition | Courtesy Araluen Arts Centre © Lisa Hatzimihail
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Desert Mob Celebrates Indigenous Arts In Central Australia

Picture of Ellie Griffiths
Updated: 18 August 2016
One of Australia‘s major Indigenous Arts events returns to Alice Springs with a spectacular backdrop of central Australia. The annual Desert Mob three-day celebration is an initiative by the local Araluen Arts Centre, offering a unique insight into the lives of Aboriginal artists and their cultures in such a rural area.

A highly anticipated event of the year, Desart members from across the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia come together to meet other artists, and share their stories and cultures with each other and visitors. For over 25 years, Desert Mob has continued to make a bold statement on Aboriginal art and dynamism, also standing as a testament to unique Aborginal traditions and cultures.

Today, Australian Indigenous art is recognised as the oldest unbroken tradition of art in the world, varying from wood and rock carvings, painting on leaves, sculpting and ceremonial clothing. The oldest found example of Aboriginal rock art have been found in the Pilbara region of Western Australia and South Australia’s Olary district, both estimating to being around 40,000 years old. Other iconic painted rock sites are found near and within Uluru, Kakadu National Park and Carnarvon Gorge. However, the largest known collection of petroglyphs (rock carvings) is found at Murujuga featuring extinct animals, like the thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger).

Bradshaw rock paintings in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, taken at a site off Kalumburu Road near the King Edward River. | © TimJN1 / WikiCommons
Bradshaw rock paintings in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, taken at a site off Kalumburu Road near the King Edward River. | © TimJN1 / WikiCommons

Across the regions, certain symbols in Aboriginal artwork hold a similar meaning. However, the meanings behind these symbols can vary within the context of different paintings. Generally this art is based on important ancient stories and symbols that are central to ‘the Dreamtime’ – the period during which Aboriginal people believe the world was created, up to (and possibly exceeding) 50,000 years ago.

These stories have been passed down from generation to generation, virtually unchanged; and although they are central to their heritage and culture, Aboriginal artists are required to gain permission to paint a story. Whether the story the painting is based on contains secret or sacred information or not, they must first and foremost gain permission, and so traditional Aboriginal artists cannot paint any story that has not been passed through their family lineage.

Desert Mob 2015 exhibition installation with works by Yarrenyty Arltere Artists | Courtesy Araluen Arts Centre © Lisa Hatzimihail
Desert Mob 2015 exhibition installation with works by Yarrenyty Arltere Artists | Courtesy Araluen Arts Centre © Lisa Hatzimihail

Celebrating the vibrancy of artwork by both established and emerging Aboriginal artists, Desert Mob 2016 will open on Thursday, 8 September with an art exhibition. Spanning across three galleries, there are hundreds of new works to be discovered and admired – from paintings, weaving, sculpture and wood carvings, to prints, photography and works on paper.

Nyurapaya Kaika Burton of Tjala Arts & Linda Rive (translator) officially opening Desert Mob 2015 | Courtesy Araluen Arts Centre © Liza Hatzimihail
Nyurapaya Kaika Burton of Tjala Arts & Linda Rive (translator) officially opening Desert Mob 2015 | Courtesy Araluen Arts Centre © Liza Hatzimihail

At the Desert Mob Symposium on Friday, 9 September, there will be a variety of images, animations, film and performances by local artists and special guests, as they reveal their creative processes with the audience. This allows each artist to reinforce and celebrate how their culture and relationship with the country play a pivotal role in their artworks and visions. Following the Symposium with a vibrant MarketPlace on Saturday, 10 September, visitors are encouraged to interact with artists and purchase their favourite – and affordable – Aboriginal artworks.

The Desert Mob exhibition will be on display across the three galleries until 23 October 2016.

Araluen Arts Centre, 61 Larapinta Dr, Araluen NT, Australia, +61 8 8951 1120