When Lorraine White was a child, she used to watch her grandfather, Bardayal Nadjamerrek, as he painted the stories he was telling her right onto the piece of bark in front of him. Through this, she learnt early on of the importance of art in telling stories, and keeping them for the future. ''I thought it was the best because he'd be telling me the stories, and what the paintings mean, the lines, the colours, he would sing songs to me of the actual painting … it was just fascinating,'' she said. ''And from there, I would sit next to him and learn every bit of art he had.'' Today, Nadjamerrek's works are hanging on the walls of the National Museum of Australia as part of a major exhibition of bark paintings from Arnhem Land. He is one of 40 master painters in Old Masters, which features 122 works created by bark painters living and working in the Northern Territory between 1948 and 1988. These artists, only three of whom are alive today, were all born before the arrival of white settler society in Arnhem Land, and would go on to use art as a well of communicating with white people and expressing their experiences as they faced a foreign culture. Chair of the Museum's Indigenous Advisory Committee Peter Yu said the exhibition was an opportunity for people to see the intricate beauty of the bark art, and learn more about the many layers of meaning they carry. ''I hope they'll appreciate the values of the fine art that it is, but I hope they delve deeper into the stories and get a sense of appreciation of what they also represent in terms of historical and contemporary living documents,'' he said. ''And also in terms of the messages they transmit not only to Aboriginal communities themselves and where they come from, but a significant effort and part of the works here was also done on the basis of trying to communicate with the broader world, to explain Aboriginal culture and the values that are there.'' He pointed out that it is 50 years since the most famous piece of bark art, the 1963 Yirrkala bark petitions, were delivered to Parliament House by the Yolngu people. ''Other than the art, there's a social and cultural and political dimension in terms of the language,'' Mr Yu said. ''The hope is that the show is an opening introduction to a better appreciation about what the art is … and what the nuances that might have been there when people were actually doing the works, and hopefully it's a portal to explore further.'' Ms White, now an artist herself, said the show was as much for the Aboriginal community as for the wider public. ''It shows the community how … it's important to keep everything alive and for younger generations to have an identity, and know in themselves that they belong somewhere and they belong through our ancestors' paintings.''