The Back Story

You may be wondering why and how Provenance Arts came into being. This is our story.

Visitors to the NT are curious – and we have something truly unique to share

Every year we host hundreds of visitors at Injalak Arts and they tell us how much they love it and wish there were more opportunities available to experience and learn about Aboriginal culture as they travel in the Northern Territory and Australia in general. They also love being sure that what they are buying is authentic, genuinely created by Aboriginal Australians.  This got us thinking about how we could create something that would be more accessible to tourists in our nearest city: Darwin.

Darwin – gateway to the Top End

Darwin CBD, so close to SE Asia – photo HC Blechynden

Darwin is a very special capital city in Australia: close to Asia, multicultural, tropical, distant from the politics of the south and in close proximity to the homelands and heartlands of many Indigenous Australian peoples. Yet for many visitors, and even residents of Darwin, the lands beyond the city limits can be mysterious. Our rugged ancient landscapes, vibrant colors, dramatic seasons, unfamiliar vegetation and sometimes alarming wildlife can be daunting. Then there’s the insects. Yet that is where the owners of Provenance Arts belong, that is their home and place of their ancestors, who created the landscape and all that is found in it.We want to encourage you to visit us and all our relations around the Northern Territory and out bush because we have the oldest continuing cultures in the world to share with you. The NT Government Indigenous Arts Trail initiative announced in 2017 is an ideal partner in this.

Owned by Injalak Arts

Management Committee, members and staff of Injalak Arts in Gunbalanya

Provenance Arts is fully owned by Injalak Arts & Crafts Association Inc – trading as Injalak Arts) – a remote community art centre located 300 km east of Darwin, just inside Arnhem Land. Established in 1989, membership is only open to Kunwinjku speaking Aboriginal adults. In 2015 we were confirmed by the ATO as a registered charity with PBI and DGR status. A sub-committee of the Injalak Arts Management Committee plus the Management Team are responsible for the governance and oversight of Provenance Arts.

Why we established Provenance Arts

Injalak Arts’ guiding principle ‘sharing and teaching our culture’.

Injalak Arts pioneered Aboriginal cultural tourism in the Northern Territory in the early 1990s and it has gradually grown. We are now recognised as one of the most outstanding destinations in Australia for domestic and international tourists seeking genuine and insightful interactions with Indigenous Australians. Each year we welcome around 10,000 visitors to our art centre in Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) western Arnhem Land. They tour our site, visit our shop and we also run outstanding small group Injalak Hill Rock Art Tours.

You can see the quality of feedback we receive.

Injalak Arts staff and Management Committee members onsite during the refurbishment  – Benson (Isaiah) Nagurrgurrba, Samson Namundja, Daniel Nawirridj, Theo Obiawuchi, Michael Naborhlborhl (front), Virgil Nalorlman, Gabriel Maralngurra (behind) with Felicity Wright and Paul Tsougranis June 2018

We are constantly told by visitors that whilst in the NT they have been looking for a place where they can see and buy Indigenous arts and crafts with confidence, being assured they are authentic and ethically sourced. Time after time we are told that people want to support the creators with their purchase but in cities couldn’t be sure. There are community-based art centres throughout the continent but being remote, they are often difficult to visit and/or acquire art from. With our extensive networks and commitment to promoting Indigenous Australian art and culture, we decided to address this.

Window decal at Provenance Arts

About Injalak Arts

From little things big things grow. In 1989 the local community of Oenpelli (renamed as Gunbalanya later) formed an Association and built an art centre 300 km east of Darwin. The initial focus was screen-printing local designs on fabric and a number of young people came on board. It quickly became a hive of activity and magnet for artists and craftspeople from through western Arnhem Land and the art forms grew to include painters, weavers, fabric screen printers, carvers and members were men, women, old and young. Over the 29 years of operations, Injalak Arts has had over a thousand members and current active membership is around 300 people. Learn more by following us on Instagram and Facebook and please visit our website

Labor of Love

Provenance Arts has been a massive undertaking for a small organisation with very limited resources. The planning started in 2016 and the possibility of the venue came to our attention in early 2017. What an amazing opportunity!! 55 Stuart Highway was formerly Anne Phelan’s Framed Gallery, a Darwin institution that supported and promoted local, interstate and international artists and provided employment to many arts industry people over its 32 years of trading. Framed was Darwin’s premier art gallery for so many years. A fabulously large space with more than 350 sq m of display area  – it meant our vision could expand.

The Management Committee of Injalak Arts are so proud of their ability to create a space that is inclusive of both artists and visitors, educational and beautiful – a place where genuine interaction and reconciliation can occur.

Provenance Arts Launch – Gabriel Maralngurra, Felicity Wright, Chief Minister Michael Gunner, Donna Nadjamerrek, Minister Lauren Moss and Isaiah Nagurrgurrba at the opening of Provenance Arts July 2018

Our business model

Consistent with our guiding principle ‘sharing and teaching our culture’, the business model is to create an ethical and inclusive space that provides excellent information about Indigenous cultural products and services, including tourism, and also markets and promotes artists and art centres. The model needs to be sustainable so it will generate income for the artists and art centres represented and can also pay operational costs. However, it takes a lot of financial and human resources to set up such a model initially and it requires subsidy in the short term. One challenge is that the tourism component is untried and will initially be offered without charge to customers. The beneficiaries will be tourists, attractions throughout the NT and tourism operators.

The pointy end

Throughout the initial planning and preparations the project was entirely supported by Injalak Arts through human resources and finances. Once building work started we face fresh challenges. Unfortunately the original costings prepared for us by professionals dramatically underestimated refurbishment expenses and we have not yet determined how to deal with the shortfall. The decision had to be made – take the plunge and keep going or give up. Stopping was not really an option so we decided to keep going forward. As more and more people dropped in onsite, we felt encouraged by their very positive reactions. We hope you agree we made the right decision.

We therefore very warmly welcome any suggestions or financial assistance that could be offered – whether funding, loans or gifts. Injalak Arts is a registered PBI charity and DGR status. We have a page about donations here.

Gratitude

Key individuals along the way have made huge contributions to making this dream come into being with their advocacy, moral support, advice and elbow grease: Karen Coote, Abbie Northwood, Anne Phelan and John Clark, David Muller, Scott Welsh, Kevin Bray, Amber Young, Sue Connors, Paul, David and Cam of Red Hat Impact Investment, Buku Larrnngay mob, GT Builders and their amazing team, Matthew Cunliffe, David Hancock.

Thanks to the following for support: A Tourism NT Tourism Demand Driver Infrastructure Grant was confirmed in September 2017 specifically for infrastructure/renovations and that started the journey from idea to reality. IBA paid for a structural engineering assessment and valuation appraisal for the building. Department of Business NT came through with funding for the original business opportunity assessment in 2017 and Feasibility Study/Business Plan and this website in 2018.

Injalak Arts would also like to acknowledge its four year partnership with RISE Ventures that has given us the support and flexibility to expand and improve our business model and sustainability. Also we appreciate ongoing book-keeping and accounting support from Nexia Edwards Marshall in Darwin.