Yinjaa-Barni Art is a collective of Aboriginal artists who predominantly belong to the Yindjibarndi language group and whose ancestral homelands surround the Fortescue River and Millstream Tablelands.
Based in Roebourne, a small town in Western Australia’s Pilbara region of the north-west of the state, the Yinjaa-Barni artists create deeply personal works of collective memory, rendering the wildflowers, river systems and landforms of their country onto canvas. It is a community group consisting of predominantly family members and has become a very busy and lively centre. Within the first few months of the formation of the group around ten of the artists entered works in the 2006 Cossack Art Award. They received five Highly Commendable awards and a Category Winner by group member Jill Tucker.
Individual group members have been recognised in some of Western Australia’s leading awards and galleries. Yindjibarndi edler Clifton Mack (deceased) is a five time Winner of the Cossack Art Award and twice Outright Winner. In 2007 Allery Sandy and Maudie Jerrold were both Category Winners at the Cossack Art Award.
In 2006 and 2007 the Art gallery of Western Australia acquired three paintings by Clifton Mack. The group continued to grow; at the end of 2007 they became incorporated and were successful in securing central and spacious premises at the heritage-listed Dalgety House in the Shire of Roebourne. As well as a partnership with Rio Tinto for twelve months funding for the group.
The new premises was officially opened in 2008, and the relocation has provided the group with better exposure to the public and the community. Works from Yinjaa Barni artists have been featured in a number of corporate publications, including Rio Tinto’s Milli Milli magazine and Australian Geographic Magazine. In 2008 the group came away with six Category Winners at the Cossack Art Award, including the Overall Winner by emerging artist Wendy Darby.
Since the beginning and throughout the group’s painting career I have asked the artists what it means to them to be able to paint. Their answer has been that it provides a great sense of pride in knowing what they have achieved, and knowing that their families are very proud of them. For the older members of the group it is also about painting what is close to their hearts: their country, their culture and the plants of the region. Painting allows them to teach the younger members through storytelling, in particular to teach about the local plants and their uses. The Yinjaa Barni Art Centre is a very important part of the economic reality of Yindjibarndi. It has provided a crucial income source for the artists and families involved. The quality of the work bodes well for the future.