Visitors to the Kimberley region of Western Australia have the opportunity to discover one of the world’s oldest and richest rock art regions in some of the most spectacular scenery in Australia.
You can seek some of these sites out on your self-drive trip along the Gibb River Road, or visit more remote sites on a Kimberley Coast cruise, a scenic flight, or a trip to one of the coastal lodges.
Two major traditions of rock art are seen in the Kimberley - Gwion Gwion Bradshaw figures and Wandjina rock art. Claimed to be some of the earliest figurative art, the Gwion Gwion or Gyorn Gyorn paintings were first seen by European eyes in the late 1890’s. Their distinguishing feature is the stick-like human figures, often depicted with adornments of tassels or sashes.
The Wandjina is highly revered as the Supreme Being spirit for the Worrora, Ngarinyin and Wunumbal tribes in the Kimberley. These language groups make up the Mowanjum Community located 15km outside of Derby. The artists at the Mowanjum Aboriginal Art & Cultural Centre depict Wandjina and Gyorn Gyorn figures based on the cave paintings central to their culture.
The Wandjina art tradition was brought to wider attention in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, when a major piece by senior law man and artist Danny Woologoodja featured during the opening ceremony. In 2016, Wandjina art was also projected onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House as part of the Vivid Festival.
Along the Gibb River Road, rock art may be seen along the bush walk tracks leading to the gorges, including at Adcock Gorge, Manning Gorge and Galvans Gorge. On the Mitchell Plateau, the Munurru art site features art in both the Bradshaw and Wandjina traditions. Kimberley Coast expedition cruises visit remote rock art sites at locations such as Vansittart Bay, Eagle Falls and Raft Point as well as the Munurru site. From the remote coastal lodges, guided tours will take you to secluded rock art sites. Further inland, visitors to Tunnel Creek may also encounter rock art on their way through the caves.
Visitors to Kimberley rock art sites are requested to respect these sacred and historically important sites. Please keep to any marked walkways and take nothing away but memories.