Right from its inception in 1993, the Cultural Research Office set a high standard for comprehensive and accurate documentation of the provenance and cultural value of artwork acquired by the art centre. It also had a broader mandate to build a repository of the cultural heritage of the many clans of Western and Central Arnhem Land: their rock art, languages, oral histories, and music and dances including ceremonial song series. It managed significant research projects, and led the way in innovative uses of information technology in the sector, developing in 1995 the first marketing website for an Aboriginal art centre in Australia, from which this website is descended.
Respected Burarra elder Narritj was the first appointed Aboriginal Heritage Officer. A passionate leader and advocate, Narritj recorded oral histories, assisted with translations into English from the many languages he is a fluent speaker of, guided film crews and internationally renown researchers visiting the region, and facilitated cultural exchanges and performances.
Today, the Cultural Research Office is an integrated and integral component of Maningrida Arts & Culture. It ensures artwork documentation ‘certificates of authenticity’, including provenance, artists biographies and explanations and interpretations of cultural significance, are impeccable. This increases the dollar value of artworks and enables an appreciation of the multiple levels of an artwork beyond its visual aspects. The contextual information invites buyers and collectors to delve deeper into the world of the artist, facilitating the communicative potential of art that has always been a driving motivation for the artists of this region.
Our culture lies in the ground… It lies in the earth, but we are bringing it out…where we can see it.
Ivan Namirrki, Kuninjku artist