Anangu paintings are created for religious and ceremonial expression and for teaching and storytelling. Several rock shelters along the Mala and Kuniya walks provide visitors with the opportunity to observe evidence of this ancient tradition. The paintings are of considerable historic significance to Anangu , who continue to ensure their preservation and protection.
The same symbols and paints used in rock art are also used in body painting. People paint themselves with ochres to represent the Tjukurpa ancestors and events they represent during inma (ceremonies). The paintings, songs and dances of some public inma can be seen in the video shown at the Cultural Centre daily.
The art and its meaning
The symbols and figures in the caves at Uluru are similar to those found at many sites throughout Central Australia. These symbols and figures include geometric symbols such as concentric circles, figures representing animal tracks, and the outlines of animals. Artists can use these symbols and figures to represent different meanings, the specific meanings are clear when the story of the painting is told. The true meanings of rock paintings at Uluru rest with the artists and their descendants.
The concentric circles symbol is a good example of how artists often use the same symbol to represent many things. In some paintings, concentric circles may mean a waterhole or a camping place. In others, the same symbol may indicate a tjala (honey ant) nest, or ili (native fig). The symbol usually represents a site that is a part of an intricate story being recorded and told by the artist.
Anangu make paints from natural mineral substances mixed with water and sometimes with animal fat. They most commonly use red, yellow, orange, white, grey and black pigments. Red, yellow and orange pigments are iron-stained clays called ochres. Calcite and ash are used to make white pigment and calcite and charcoal are used to make black pigment. Calcite is a chalky mineral which occurs naturally in calcrete deposits common in this area.
Rock paintings around Uluru are easily damaged. Natural elements like water, rock minerals and lichens make them fade or flake off. Art sites also deteriorate when people touch the artwork or graffiti the sites.
Anangu and park management have established methods for protecting art sites. They have erected viewing platforms and interpretive signs at many popular public sites along the Mala and Kuniya walks. Rangers regularly remove nests and tunnels made by birds and insects. They put silicon drip lines around paintings to redirect water flow away from paintings. This also reduces lichen and mould growth over the paintings.
Specialist consultants have developed a comprehensive system of documenting all known art sites around Uluru. Sites are mapped, photographed and where appropriate, cultural information is recorded. Help us to protect the World Heritage art on Uluru by remaining behind the protective barriers and inform the Cultural Centre staff if you see any graffiti, or persons damaging or interfering with the art work.
There are two paintings we use to help illustrate the concepts of Tjukurpa and working together in our park.
Painting by Malya Teamay
Our park ticket
The painting, by Malya Teamay, that is on the ticket depicts the important stories of Uluru. Uluru is represented in the centre of the painting by concentric circles. The different shades of colour surrounding Uluru show the different land and vegetation (which is all Tjukurpa), crossed by these ancestral beings on their journeys to Uluru.
The ancestral beings (Tjukuritja) represented in this painting are:
- Kuniya, the Python Woman with her eggs (top-right);
- Liru, the venomous snake (bottom-right);
- Kurpany, the dog like creature represented by the paw prints (bottom-left); and
- Mala the rufous hare wallaby represented by the wallaby tracks (top-left).
The footprints and spears represent the warriors of the Warmala revenge party who travelled from West of Uluru looking for Kuniya.
This painting also appears on the cover of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Plan of Management.
Anangu ask that you respect the Tjukurpa by keeping your park entry ticket, not discarding it or giving it away.
Our visitor guide - the working together painting
Uluru-Kata Tjuta is jointly managed by its Anangu traditional owners and Parks Australia. We call this joint management ‘working together’.
Artist Kunmanara Taylor created a painting called Working Together that illustrates this concept. We use this painting in our visitor guide to help explain joint management.
Working together by Kunmanara Taylor
'I think Aboriginal people and Parks Australia have been working together really well... the traditional owners and Parks Australia are experts the way we look after our great national park for all Aboriginal people and for the people of Australia and overseas visitors to come and see and enjoy.' - Yami Lester – traditional owner and the park’s first chairman (1986 – 1996)
The central circle represents Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The 12 seated figures (the small ‘u’ shapes) are the members of the park’s Board of Management – four male and four female Anangu (brown) and four non-Anangu (white).
They have surrounded the park with a yuu, a traditional windbreak. This is the protection that their decisions and policies provide both for the culture and environment of the park, as well as its visitors.
Waiting and listening to the board’s decisions are the Anangu and non-Anangu rangers. The Anangu rangers are barefoot, representing their close connection with the land and knowledge derived from many generations of looking after the land. The non-Anangu rangers wear shoes, representing their land management training and knowledge derived from western scientific traditions.
Surrounding all of this are two larger yuu. One yuu represents Tjukurpa (Anangu law) and the other the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999. These provide protection and support, working together to guide the management of the park.