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Australian Aboriginal art is so distinctive and uniquely Australian, that art classes with an Aboriginal artist are a popular way to experience aboriginal culture.  

Brian Swindley, affectionately known as Binna, is the talented Kuku Yalanji artist behind Janbal Gallery in Mossman, north of Port Douglas.

picture of binna swindley paintingBinna’s mother Shirley Swindley was also a well-regarded indigenous artist. Her aboriginal name was ‘Janbal’, named after the rare and vibrant blue skinned rainforest berry ‘the blue qandon’.

Today Binna sells his artwork at the gallery and also runs aboriginal art classes for kids and adults.

So if you want to have a go at creating your own aboriginal-inspired canvas or unique boomerang, this is the place to go.

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kuku yalanji artAboriginal culture centres around stories and ‘yarns’ and art is one way that indigenous people express their stories and keep them alive by passing them down from one generation to the next.

Aboriginal people have a close connection to the land and it is one of the main inspirations for their artwork. Traditional bush foods, Australian animals, yearly seasons and other aspects of nature feature strongly.

Dreamtime stories are also represented on canvas.

aboriginal boomerangsColours play an important role in aboriginal art too as traditionally ochre was the most important material used by aboriginal people.

These crumbly rocks come in a variety of earthy colours so browns, red, oranges, yellows, whites and blacks are the most common colours used in traditional aboriginal artwork.

Contemporary aboriginal designs often use a wider range of colours including greens, blues and pinks.

Binna tends to use the more traditional colours in his artwork and in his classes.

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janbal art gallery mossmanSymbols are also an important element in a lot of aboriginal artwork.

Even with over 200 aboriginal clans in Australia and with each tribe having a slightly different style of painting to represent their region, most aboriginal artists use similar symbols in their art.

Animal tracks such as emu, kangaroo, possum, snake or goanna are common. Waterholes, rain and people are also often seen.

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aboriginal art for kidsBinna offers group workshops or one-on-one art classes at Janbal Gallery where he teaches people how to paint using bamboo sticks.

Dot painting is a strong representation of traditional aboriginal painting and Binna is a great teacher on this technique.

You can paint a canvas or a boomerang using the four main colours used by aboriginal artists. Binna explains that white represents rain, yellow represents the sun and red symbolises the earth, plus black is also used.

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  • Binna has a hearing disability so the best way to communicate with Janbal Gallery is via email
  • Janbal aboriginal art gallery is located in Mossman, about 15 minutes drive north of Port Douglas
  • For more information visit