New Works


15-662 – Bugai Whyoulter


Bugai Whyoulter

75 x 150cm: acrylic on linen
Year: 2015


“The jila (snake) is in the kapi (water) at Wangkakalu. There is kujarra (two), jila and his nyupa (spouse). He’s a quiet one.”

 – Bugai Whyoulter

Wangkakalu is a claypan and special meeting place to the southeast of Parnngurr Aboriginal Community, and within the Mckay Ranges. The landscape at Wangkakalu is characterised by especially large tuwa (sandhills). Large numbers of Martu people would gather regularly for ceremonies at this yinta (permanent spring). When the other claypans and yinta in the area overflow with water, the excess runoff collects here. Wangkakalu forms part of Bugai’s ngurra (home Country, camp) through her father. She first travelled to Wangkakalu with her family as a little girl. The family again visited Wangkakalu when Bugai was ‘big girl’ with the Biljabu and Yubena family. 

During the pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) period, Martu would traverse very large distances annually in small family groups, moving seasonally from water source to water source, and hunting and gathering bush tucker as they went. At this time knowledge of water sources was critical for survival, and today Martu Country is still defined in terms of the location and type of water. Each of the hundreds of claypans, rockholes, waterholes, soaks and springs found in the Martu desert homelands is known by name, location, quality and seasonal availability through real life experience and the recounting of Jukurrpa (Dreaming) narratives. 

As described by Bugai, Wangkakalu is also home to an ancestral jila (snake). The Western Desert term jila is used interchangeably to describe springs considered to be ‘living’ waters and snakes, both of which play a central role in Martu culture and Jukurrpa. Of the many permanent springs in Martu Country, very few are ‘living waters’; waters inhabited by jila. Before they became snakes, these beings were men who made rain, formed the land and introduced cultural practices like ceremonies and ritual songs. Some of the men travelled the desert together, visiting one another, but they all ended their journeys at their chosen spring alone, transformed into a snake. These important springs are named after their jila inhabitant, guarding their waters. Speaking of the ‘quick one’ jila at Wangkakalu, Bugai says that when visiting the site a fire must be lit to keep the snake that lives in the depths of the yinta from surfacing.

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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.