Anangu paintings are created for educational and ceremonial purposes as well as telling of events that have occurred. Several rock shelters at the base of Uluru provide visitors with the opportunity to observe evidence of this ancient tradition. The paintings are of considerable historic and cultural significance to Anangu, who continue to ensure their preservation and protection.
The symbols and figures in the caves at Uluru are similar to those found at many sites throughout Central Australia. These include geometric symbols such as concentric circles, figures representing animal tracks, and the outlines of animals. Artists can use these symbols to represent different meanings.
The concentric circles symbol is a good example of how artists often use the same symbol to represent many things. In some paintings, concentric circles may mean a waterhole or a camping place.
In others, the same symbol may indicate a tjala (honey ant) nest, or ili (native fig). The symbol usually represents a site that is a part of an intricate story being recorded and told by the artist. The true meanings of the rock paintings at Uluru rest with the artists and their descendants.
Anangu make paints from natural mineral substances mixed with water and sometimes with animal fat. They most commonly use red, yellow, orange, white, grey and black pigments. Red, yellow and orange pigments are ironstained clays called ochres. Calcite and ash are used to make white pigment and calcite and charcoal are used to make black pigment. Calcite is a chalky mineral which occurs naturally in calcrete deposits common in this area.
To learn more about Anangu Art visit the art markets in the resort Town Square or visit the cultural centre at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.