Born c. 1939, Barney Ellaga is a senior custodian and law-man of the Alawa community, which is situated on the upper reaches of the Cox and Arnold rivers, south of the Roper River and west of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The country is called Minyerri, Southern Arnhem Land.
His works have an indelible connection with the Dreamings related to his country, and for several sacred sites he is the Jungai (guardian), having total control over the entry by non-countrymen and maintaining the Tradition and heritage of these areas.
Barney?s works are distinctive, with brilliant colour combinations and individual brushstroke style, instantly recognisable. The artists of his area, the Ngukurr community on Roper River, have gained International recognition, led by the success of the late Ginger Riley Munduwalawala as well as renowned painters Gertie Huddleston and her sister Angelina George. The amazing depictions of the landscapes of their country in fabulously modern colours and abstract imaging stand out as desirable and collectable.
The central theme in many of Barney?s works is the traditional men?s body paint designs used for ceremonies as well as the King Brown (snake) Dreaming, which is the story of the earth creation and is an important part of Barney?s country and heritage.
Barney’s work has been widely exhibited since 1989, with many paintings going into prominent museums and public collections, including the acquisition of nine works by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.