Yinjaa-Barni

Click to see Yinjaa-Barni exhibition

Yinjaa-Barni Art, a not-for-profit Aboriginal Corporation, is governed by its own Aboriginal board and run by an executive manager. It consists of a group of talented artists who predominantly belong to the Yindjibarndi language group and whose ancestral homelands are around the Millstream Tablelands in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

In the Yindjabarndi language Yinjaa-Barni means ‘staying together’. At the art centre this finds its expression in the artists’ enjoyment of working together and in their artworks, which, through their visual language, provide a rich and meaningful way of bridging cultures.

The Yinjaa-Barni artists have strong individual styles although all share the common desire to depict what is dear to their hearts – their country, their culture and the plant life that is typical of their region. The older artists have become highly regarded and collected, while the younger painters are quickly making their names. Their artworks have been awarded prizes in regional and national competitions, shown in national and international galleries and have found their way into public and private national and international collections.

Yinjaa-Barni Art is located in a heritage-listed cottage on the main street of Roebourne, a small town between Karratha and Port Hedland in Western Australia’s Pilbara region in the north-west of the state.

A great sense of self worth and pride

Yinjaa-Barni Art has had its home in Dalgety House, a heritage-listed cottage on the main street of Roebourne, since 2007, soon after the group became incorporated. Prior to this, it operated from a shed at the back of the Aboriginal Church in Roebourne, of which many of the artists are members. Two of the artists, elders Clifton Mack and Maudie Jerrold, had begun painting earlier at Cossack in 2001 when Pilbara TAFE offered a painting and design course there.

Over the last few years the Yinjaa-Barni artists have enjoyed growing success. Many have won major awards in large regional exhibitions, principally the Cossack Art Award, the largest regional art award in Australia. Some have exhibited in Italy, Sydney, Perth and Fremantle at prestigious galleries. Several of the senior artists have been offered solo exhibitions and the younger painters, with their seniors as models, are developing strong individual styles. In 2010 Clifton Mack was chosen as a finalist in the prestigious Telstra National Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Art Award in Darwin and in 2011 he won the Royal Bank of Scotland Emerging Artist Award in Sydney, NSW.

Apart from their remarkable talent, one of the qualities that characterises these painters from the Pilbara is the strong individuality of each artist’s style. While they all represent their country and the sites and elements that have such personal meaning to them, they relate their stories on their canvases in strikingly distinctive ways.

Their achievements in painting have provided the artists with a great sense of self-worth and pride, as well as providing them with a viable means of economic independence. For the older members of the group, art is an important means of expressing and relaying their love for their country, their culture and the flora of the region. They are now using it as one of the mediums, along with story-telling, to pass on their knowledge to the younger generations, particularly about local plants and their traditional uses. Younger painters are increasingly active in the group and rapidly gaining recognition