Ochre and Ink tells the extraordinary story of artist Zhou Xiaoping and his inspiring collaboration over 23 years with Aboriginal artists in outback Australia. Trained as a traditional Chinese brush painter in Anhui Province, Xiaoping arrived in Australia in 1988 knowing almost nothing about the country. On a whim, he traveled to the heart of the outback, where he was surprised to see Aboriginal people for the first time. He became fascinated by their art and culture, and they welcomed him into their communities where the artists showed him their techniques of painting with ochre on bark.
Now Xiaoping is visiting the famous artist Johnny Bulunbulun and his family, working on paintings for a major exhibition to be held in Beijing, on the theme of the 300 year trade in Trepang (sea cucumber) from the Aboriginal people of northern Australia via Macassan traders to China.
Johnny is keen to travel to China for the exhibition; but tragically, he dies before he can make the journey. Xiaoping attends the profoundly moving funeral ceremony in Arnhem Land and confirms that the exhibition can go ahead, as a memorial to the great artist.
A year later, Johnny’s wife Laurie and son Paul attend the exhibition opening at the imposing Capital Museum in Beijing and perform an emotional ceremony in his honour. Later Xiaoping shows his Aboriginal friends some of the fascinating sights of Beijing. At a local restaurant they all try a dish of trepang, which they find surprisingly delicious.
Xiaoping returns to the Yellow Mountains near his family home, a landscape of towering rock peaks, pine trees and swirling mist which inspired his early art career. He is overcome with emotion as he visits this fabulous land of his youth and reflects on the amazing journey of his life.