When Warlpiri Elders transferred ancient stories onto the doors of their local school in remote Yuendumu 30 years ago they never imagined their work would one day be part of digital displays around the world.

5 November 2019

In the 1980s five artists painted Dreaming stories on the doors to assist Yuendumu schoolchildren transition from traditional learning to a new education system and also to remind them of their culture, history and language.

The doors survived the desert wind and sun and robust treatment from schoolchildren until they were restored and included for display at the South Australia Museum in 2001. Since then they have dazzled national and international visitors to the Museum.

Now they have now been digitally replicated for display in Australia's overseas embassies—an initiative of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade during International Year of Indigenous Languages.

'This digital exhibition will continue the legacy of the doors and promote awareness of Aboriginal language and culture, which is such a rich heritage to share,' said Professor John Carty, Head of Humanities at the South Australian Museum.

'For decades the doors have been ambassadors for Warlpiri culture, and for Aboriginal culture more broadly. Now that work continues overseas. It's pretty magical to think that these important historic doors will be at the forefront of events and conversations around the world.

'The doors are symbolic of the oral tradition of sharing Aboriginal knowledge—so much which is held in art, language and storytelling. The doors were a unique way to crystallise thousands of year of cultural and linguistic continuity.

'They will open opportunities for Australians to speak with real pride about Aboriginal culture and provide international audiences with an insight into Aboriginal art, culture and language.

'Walpiri were pioneers of bilingual communication and have lead us to where we are now, particularly this year being the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

'Each person who stands before them can get a sense of two streams of learning and knowledge.

'The fact that these Elders knew back then that these doors were a means for cross cultural communication for students in the 80s is wonderful and even more amazing is that the doors are still doing that work today.'

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