We visited Aurukun in June, an indigenous community south of Weipa on western Cape York Peninsula. The town began life in 1904 as a church mission, and over the years it’s become home to about 1200 people from the five clans that have lived in the area for centuries – the Sara, Winchanam, Apalech, Putch and Wanam. Collectively, they’re known as the Wik and Kugu people.
Aurukun has the oldest established art centre on Cape York Peninsula. The Wik and Kugu Arts Centre has been giving artistic and commercial support to local artists for more than 50 years, and many of them have gained national, even international recognition. Artists work in many media – paintings and fibre art particularly, but Aurukun is best known for its sculptures. There’s a long history of works carved in soft timber for ceremonial use. When the ceremony was over, sculptures were discarded and left to break down in the bush. In the past decade, Aurukun artists have begun to seek a commercial market and Aurukun sculptures are highly sought-after works of art. They often depict an artist’s plant or animal totem, and the most widely known are the much loved carvings of Aurukun camp dogs.
Dev Lengjel is the new manager of the Arts Centre. He says there’s no shortage of talented artists in Aurukun and on Cape York Peninsula — the challenge for him is to spread the word about the artists and their work.
Listen as Dev shows reporter Phil Staley through the Wik and Kugu Arts Centre at Aurukun
More about Aurukun at http://aurukun.qld.gov.au/