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The Best Places to See Aboriginal Art and Culture

Travel + Leisure - World's Best Awards 2019
Ellie Khoury
Written by
Jane Dumble, Levi Beck & Ellie Khoury

Australia is home to one of the most ancient traditions in the world, with Aboriginal arts and culture attracting art enthusiasts from across the globe.

For those looking to go beyond the country’s picturesque beaches and vibrant cities, a whole world of Aboriginal culture awaits.

From cultural experiences in the Northern Territory to art tours in Sydney, this is our round up of the best places to see Aboriginal art and culture.

1) Karrke Aboriginal Cultural Experience, Northern Territory

Named after the aboriginal word for the western Bowerbird, the Karrke organisation was established to preserve and maintain the local Lurit­ja and Per­tame (South­ern Aran­da) lan­guages and culture for generations to come. In the heart of the Northern Territory’s 10-strong Wanmarra community, Karrke runs incredible cultural tours that teach visitors about the region’s history.  

 

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A one-of-a-kind aboriginal experience, the Karrke Aboriginal Cultural Tour takes travellers on a journey through bush tucker food and bush medicines traditionally used for spiritual healing. The cultural experience extends far beyond healing methods too, with everything from Aboriginal dot painting to seasonal ‘Witchetty Grub’ (more commonly known as larvae) explained in great detail. The tours are operated by locals Christine and Peter who live on their ancestors land, so there’s no more immersive aboriginal experience than this. 

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2) Muru Mittigar Aboriginal Cultural Centre, New South Wales

Located on the outskirts of Sydney, the Muru Mittigar Aboriginal Cultural Centre is an educational experience for all those who visit. The centre is situated in the suburb of Castlereagh, once home to the Darug Aboriginal people, and the ‘Mulgoa clan’ in particular. Having occupied this land for thousands of years, the Darug people spent their time hunting game, fishing and gathering plant food. With the Darug still the traditional custodians of the area, today the suburb is home to one of the most in-depth aboriginal cultural centres in Australia.

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Perched at the foot of the Blue Mountains, Muru Mittigar Aboriginal Cultural Centre has been running since 1998. With the dual aim of creating a better understanding of Aboriginal culture and creating new jobs amongst the community, the centre is a worthwhile institution. Inside, visitors can learn about a variety of sacred experiences. With Muru Mittigar meaning ‘Pathway to Friends,’ in the Darug language, this social enterprise really puts connecting community members with one another at its core. 

 

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3) Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Western Australia

Playing host to a range of visual and performing arts, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) is the city’s focal point for those wishing to experience the best of Australian arts and culture. Often thought of as being at the forefront of contemporary thinking in art, the centre regularly puts on exhibitions featuring contributions from the Aboriginal community. National art tours such as ‘No Boundaries’ celebrate the work of artists such as Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri and Billy Joongoora Thomas, who were inspired by their ancient cultural traditions to put a modern spin on the ancient art form of Aboriginal dot painting. From lectures on the rise of Aboriginal art to art tours, there’s a plethora of ways to learn about Aboriginal culture here. 

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4) National Art Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Paying homage to Australia’s Aboriginal foundation, the National Gallery of Australia acknowledges the native Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, the Traditional Custodians of the Canberra region. One of the museum’s most famous exhibitions is ‘Indigenous Australia,’ a presentation of significant works produced by Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from the late 1800s through to today. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection at the National Art Gallery of Australia is the largest in the world, so there’s a whole host of Aboriginal artists just waiting to be discovered here. 

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5) Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Northern Territory

The Northern Territory’s premier cultural organisation, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) features a range of traditional and contemporary artists in its many galleries. Situated next to Darwin’s picturesque Arafura Sea, the Aboriginal origins of the area are reflected within the museum’s walls. The Northern Territory has long been thought of as the home of Aboriginal culture and ancient Dreamtime stories, and the MAGNT is no different. After you’ve explored the museum’s different galleries, head to the city’s many locally owned and run inidigenous art galleries to meet local artists at work. 

 

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