Fitzroy Crossing is composed of Aboriginal people from disparate territories, who originally settled in the township as a result of pastoral expansion of the Kimberley.
The original inhabitants of the Fitzroy River region - the Bunuba, Nyikina and Gooniyandi - who were partially annihilated due to a vicious clash of cultures in the late 1890s, were forced to maintain their law in an underground situation.
The Walmajarri people of the Great Sandy Desert began to move northwards onto pastoral stations of the Fitzroy Valley during this first phase of contact and intermittently through the 20th century.
By contrast, the Wangkajunga people, traditional owners of huge tracts of land that form part of the Great Sandy Desert were living as semi-nomadic hunters and gatherers until relatively recently. The older generation remembers those times and making first contact with kartiya.
Painting oral histories
The paintings now being made for Mangkaja Arts in Fitzroy Crossing and outstations of Bayulu and Wangkatjungka have grown out of adult literacy classes conducted at Karrayili Adult Education Centre and Bayulu from 1982 onwards. During these classes senior Bunuba, Walmajarri and Wangkajunga thought about their early lives and pictured them on paper, accompanying them with texts. The artists' statements remain integral to the process of creation which is a form of visual storytelling. By painting, oral histories directly linked to stories of an intimate connection to the land are made accessible to Europeans in images, signs and words.