Aussie outback adventure #5 – Aboriginal Art and Women’s business

Art and Women’s Business were on the agenda for days 5 & 6 of our Outback Aussie Adventure

Women’s Business:

I was privileged to take part in the ‘Women’s business’ talk with Josie and Glenise Coulthard while at Iga Warta. Men could have joined the group to hear the stories, but it was stressed that only women can actually tell the stories. None of the stories are secret either as I had always thought was the case.  We had a small group of women join us for the talks – the men in our group were happy to go climb a big hill 🙂

Please note that permission was given to share our experiences and photos of art works.

The Women’s talk was a gentle ‘walk and talk’ and at times it became emotional as we shared personal stories. The first stop was Josie’s garden where she explained the custom of burying the placenta after birth and the issues involved in doing so. She has her grandchildren’s afterbirth buried in her garden with plaques celebrating the event.  She told us of the importance of the placenta and birth stories of the Adnymathanha people.

We heard some of the history and the family clan systems that they live by. At the creek we talked about the uses of various trees in everyday life and their love of the earth.  We heard stories of Josie and Glenise’s life growing up in the area. Josie and Glenise are sisters and both married Coulthard brothers Terry and Kingsley.

We also visited Damper Hill, which is a special women’s site, and heard interesting stories from the past and not so distant past. It was a fascinating few hours and I enjoyed every minute of it. They stressed the fact that the stories they told us were relevant to the Adnymathanha people and others elsewhere may have done things differently.

Malki Cave Art:

After lunch we walked a few kilometres into the Malki cave art site with our guide Cliff, He set the scene of the paintings as we walked and when we arrived at the site we were asked to sit quietly for a few minutes to get a feel for the place. It was quite a surreal experience to know we were seeing art work that had been painted thousands of years ago.   Cliff explained that the art work could not be repainted as there are no initiated people left to do so.  Considering the age of the paintings they were in great condition and a thrill to see.  Cliff had been told the stories and so was able to share them with us, although there were a few he didn’t know the meaning of.  We spent ages looking at them and again felt honoured to be in such a beautiful place, witnessing such amazing history.

The Red Gorge and Rock Engravings:

The two guardians
The two guardians

The next morning we continued our art tour with a drive and a 4km walk into the Red Gorge.  This place was amazing!!  The huge red rocks towering above us in the gorge were great in themselves but then Cliff pointed out the start of the ‘gallery’.  The engravings or ‘petroglyphs‘ are images that are created by removing part of the rock surface by incising, picking, carving or abrading as a form of rock art.

The Red Gorge is the largest site in the Flinders Ranges for engravings and must be seen to be believed!

We climbed a hill for the view of the two guardians who look after the Red Gorge and ate our lunch amongst the ancient rocks.  As we progressed down the gorge the engravings were to be found on both sides and we spent ages poring over them and discovering with delight many pictures of echidnas, lizards, feet, hands, animal tracks, circles of life, the sun and other important images to the Adnymathanha people, who lived in the area over 50000 years ago.

Stunned and exhilarated we made our way back to the car and returned for dinner at Iga Warta.  What an amazing few days we’ve had.  If you’ve not been to this area before I strongly recommend a trip.

We had a fabulous experience! It was an adventure way more than I ever thought it would be and I hope you are enjoying my posts, as much as I enjoy sharing them with you.

You can find my previous posts on our outback adventure here:

Day 1 of walking  – An Aussie Outback Adventure #1

Day 2 of walking – An Aussie Outback Adventure #2

Day 3 was a day of social history and culture  – An Aussie Outback Adventure #3

Day 4 of walking – Aussie Outback Adventure #4

Stay tuned for more updates!  

If you haven’t been to this part of the world I would highly recommend it.  Immersing yourself in the culture and environment is very therapeutic for the soul.  

Have you ever been anywhere like this?  I’d love to hear your stories.


Art and Women's Business
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