76 x 152cm: acrylic on linen
“We camped here, me, my husband, my kids, not far from Jigalong. The old people used to live here and work here. The road goes from Jigalong, past Puntawarri, and then [continues to] the Canning Stock Route. There is a waterhole here where the old bush people used to go to in the pujiman (traditional, desert-dwelling) days while they were still walking around that Country.”
– Dadda Samson
Puntawarri is an important cultural area located on the middle stretches of the Canning Stock Route and east of the Jigalong Mission (now Jigalong Aboriginal community), where Dadda continues to live today. It is also the site of a now abandoned community, waterhole, creek and lake. Puntawarri’s close proximity to Jigalong Mission made it a popular site for Martu to visit during the ‘mission days’. While growing up at Jigalong Mission in the 1960’s, Dadda would return to Puntawarri every weekend to hunt and camp.
For many Martu, like Dadda and her family, Jigalong Mission was the site where their pujiman lifestyle came to an end from the late 1940s as they transitioned to a life as stockmen and women working in cattle stations in the Pilbara region and beyond. In the wake of the extreme and prolonged drought of the 1960s, the last of the remaining pujimanpa (desert dwellers) were forced to move to missions like Jigalong, where a supply of food and water was assured. There, many Martu were reunited with family members that had already moved in from the desert.
The waterhole at Puntawarri is said to be populated by several kinds of ancestral jila (snakes), however the site is best known for its association with the Ngayurnangalku, fearsome ancestral cannibal beings. During the Jukurrpa (Dreaming) the Ngayurnangalku came together from all over the desert, first stopping near Puntawarri on their travels to Kumpupirntily (Kumpupintily, Lake Disappointment). At Kumpupirntily, they had a big meeting to debate whether or not they would continue to live as cannibals, and eventually came to the decision to stop eating people. That night, a female baby cannibal was born to the eastern Ngayurnangalku on the red sandhills at Puntawarri, where she continues to live today as the ‘big mummy’ Ngayurnangalku. Following protocol, the baby also had to be consulted by the group. She determined that the Ngayurnangalku should continue to eat people. Her decision divided the group, and from this point the group from the east continued to live as ‘bad’ cannibals at Kumpupirntily, while the group from the west became ‘good’, thereafter consuming only animals.
Martumili Artists warns visitors that our website includes images and artworks of Artists who have passed away which may cause distress to some Indigenous people.
Martumili Artists acknowledges the Nyiyaparli and Martu people as the Traditional Owners of the land we live and work on. We also acknowledge the Traditional Owners throughout our country and our Elders; past, present and emerging.