Situated on the Larapinta Drive, 130 kilometres south west of Alice Springs, lies Hermannsburg, the birthplace of famous Aboriginal painter Albert Namatjira. Hermannsburg was the German name chosen by the Lutheran pastors who established a small mission for the Aranda Aboriginals here in the 1880s. The mission centred around an old stone church and schoolhouse that are today open to visitors, offering a unique insight into the controversial missionary movement that took place throughout the Northern Territory in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By all reports, the Hermannsburg mission was one of the more enlightened. Pastors learned the Aranda language, and while the Aboriginal community studied German and Christianity, they managed to retain their own cultural values.
Hermannsburg’s most famous resident, Australia’s best known Aboriginal painter Albert Namatjira, painted with watercolours in the European style taught to him by the missionaries. His works were infused with a distinctly Aboriginal take on the landscape. Namatjira died in 1959, but his house is located three kilometres west of Hermannsburg on the Areyonga Road and is open to visitors. Several of his grandchildren now carry on his artistic tradition.