The Ngarinyin people of north-western Australia are the custodians of the world’s oldest known figurative art that records a distinct society. The fine, blood coloured paintings of graceful people that are preserved in sandstone rock shelters throughout their homeland create a rare cultural resonance and residue of extraordinary antiquity. Every painting is a story, every painting is an ancestor and every painting marks a place of cultural significance. When Ngarinyin people give the name of the artists, they say “Gwion Gwion”.
Pathway Project began as a collaboration in 1992 when the senior Ngarinyin munnumburra—law experts–decided they must document and reveal evidence of the origins of their culture, based in Wunan law, to secure native title rights in Australian law. Beginning beneath the Guloi plum tree icon–a visual metaphor for education–they began to record junjun–evidence–on their dulwan nimindi–pathway of knowledge.
Ngarinyin knowledge reveals the origins of the complex and civilising laws of Aboriginal Australia, known as the Wunan. The Wunan began with one work of art–the essential form of justice created by the visionary artist Wibalma and freed by Wodoi and Jungan. The historic Wunan conference and consensus that followed the liberation of the object of justice, was held around the great stone table and ended the archaic nomadic epoch through sharing land and blood by marriage.
The Wunan laws of belonging to land were the motive for the Gwion Gwion artists marking of country with human images, on sandstone, across the Kimberley region.
The archive of evidence recorded by Aboriginal experts through the Pathway Project contains knowledge that redefines human history in Australia.