Ochre – Milingimbi

The oldest living culture in the world has developed a complex and unique use of natural pigments in the creation of a diverse range of form and application across this continent. We are proud to partner with Milingimbi Art & Culture Centre, a community owned art practice, in the Northern Territory. It has a long history of producing works steeped in active cultural practice such as barks, ceremonial poles, carvings and weavings. The colours are known locally as Yolngu, the pigments displayed are used in their contemporary cultural practice. Information provided by Helen Milminydjarrk and Milingimbi Art & Culture. Facebook: Milingimbi Art and Culture Centre



A bright white pigment found along the coast in rocky places or washed up in the sand. Used by both Yirritja and Dhuwa people (the 2 sides of the moiety in Yolngu law) it is painted onto the body during ceremonies including funerals and mens initiation. Gamanungku has healing qualities and is painted on the body of people when they are sick to help them recover. It is also used by Yolngu when painting on bark.



The name for both light and dark yellow pigment found in rocky areas near the coast. Only Yirritja people use Buthalak during ceremony. When a Yirritja persons Wawa (brother) or Yupa (sister) passes away a stripe of Buthalak is painted around their lower leg during the funeral ceremony. Buthalak can also be used to paint designs on bark by both Yirritja and Dhuwa people.



Only used for ceremonies including funerals. It is a red pigment found at Langarra (Howard Island) along the beach and in rocky areas. The country at Langarra belongs to the Wobukarra people so before Yolgnu use Miku they must first ask for permission from the Wobukarra Traditional Owners.


Mul Ngurrngitj

 A black pigment also known as Lirrgi. Made from charcoal Mul Ngurrngitj is more commonly used by Yirritja people and is sometimes used by Dhuwa people. Yirritja men paint Mul Ngurrngitj onto the chest of mature boys during mens ceremony.



A silvery dark mauve pigment that is very smooth and clay-like in texture. Painted on the body of both Yirritja and Dhuwa people during Gonabibi and funeral ceremonies. During funeral ceremonies Radjpa is painted onto bodies of family members and kept on for three days. Radjpa is only used by Dhuwa people during specific ceremonies including mens initiation and to paint a thick strip around the lower leg when a Wawa (brother) or Yupa (sister) passes away. During initiation ceremony mature boys are painted with Radjpa at a Yindi Boongal (large traditional song and dance), the Radja is then washed off and the body of the young man is painted with his clan design signifying his entry into manhood.

Ochre – Italian

They vary widely in shade, hue and transparency. Some are quite opaque, while others are valued for their use as glazes. In classical antiquity the most famed came from the Pontine city of Sinope from which the term sinopia derives and was used in Ancient Rome and the Middle Ages to describe all red ochres.


Terre Verte

The name green earth (Terre Verte) is applied to the light, cold green of celadonite, a natural mineral found chiefly in small deposits from Verona in Italy.

Medieval artists used green earth pigment extensively as a preparatory underpainting for flesh tones. Laid in where the flesh was to be represented it neutralized the effect of the heat in pinks and reds of the subsequent flesh tints.


Yellow Ochre


Raw Sienna


Orange Ochre


Burnt Sienna


Raw Umber

Umbers contain manganese oxide as well as iron. The manganese lends a greenish cast which has always been valued by artists who have long appreciated the variety of cool and warm hues as valuable shading tools in any sort of painting technique. The name comes from terra di ombra, or earth of Umbria, a mountainous region in central Italy where the pigment was originally extracted. The best umber now come from Cyprus. The word may also be related to the Latin word Umbra and the old French word ombre, meaning shade or shadow.


Burnt Umber

Burnt umber is produced by heating raw umber.


Cassel Earth

Cassel Earth, also known as Van Dyke Brown, is a transparent brown earth containing peat. It has been used since the 17th century but the organic material makes it an awkward drier in oil paints.